A second branch'the William O. Lockridge/Bellevue Library, also completed by Adjaye Associates for the District of Columbia Public Libraries (DCPL) system 'looks more like a Brutalist treehouse than the glimmering pavilion that is the Francis A. Gregory Library. Set on a steep, hilly site in southwest Washington, the branch was named both for a community activist and the Bellevue neighborhood. The design adheres to the same specifications as the Gregory branch in terms of size (23,000 square feet) and budget ($13 million), as well as the mandate to welcome the moderate-income community through varying programmatic spaces and services.

The tight, 30,000-square-foot site drops in grade about 40 feet, which prompted Adjaye to create a series of podlike structures spilling down the slope. He placed the library's entrance at the lowest point on the north, under large concrete pilotis supporting the building's poured-in-place concrete polygon. Smaller, attached, polygonal steel-frame structures with synthetic stucco surfaces contain more intimately scaled spaces'one for a children's activities room on the second level; two pods for teen services and meeting rooms on the third floor. Their fragmented geometries were meant to give the building a sculptural quality and prevent it from looming monolithically above the mostly brick houses nearby.

Nevertheless, the proposal caused a kerfuffle when David Adjaye first showed his scheme to the community in 2010. After several meetings the architectural ensemble became more Aalto-esque, with the addition of vertical Port Orford cedar fins that add scale and texture.

Today, as visitors enter the main volume, they find a large stair at one side leading up to the expansively glazed two upper floors. A rectilinear light well with green-tinted glass walls slices through the main pavilion without sacrificing transparency. The third floor's adult reading room, at grade with the upper part of the slope, looks into a wooded outcropping at the south. One summer afternoon, deer foraged the turf, oblivious to an audience in the nearby structure. They didn't seem uncomfortable with the architecture, a view that is evidently now shared by library visitors, judging from the heavily populated computer terminals and reading rooms on a hot summer day.

3660 Alabama Avenue, SE
Washington, DC

Total construction cost:  $13 million

Completion date:June 2012

Size: 23,000 square feet



District of Columbia Public Libraries



Adjaye Associates
415 Broadway 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10013

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
David Adjaye
Austin Harris, RA
Russell Crader, RA
Edward Yung


Architect of record:

Wiencek + Associates



MEP:  Setty & Associates International

Structural: ReStl Designers



Landscape: Greenhorne & O’Mara


Owner’s Representative:

Jair Lynch Development Partners


General contractor:

Coakley & Williams (mentor construction manager)
Blue Skye Development & Construction (protégé construction manager)



Edmund Summers


CAD system, project management, or other software used:

Autocad 2010



Structural system

Steel Frame: Pavilions

Concrete: Main Building


Exterior cladding

Metal/glass curtain wall: Custom: Tower Glass Company, Woburn MA

Timber: Port Orford Cedar



Entrances: Dorma


Interior finishes

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Lacquered finish

Carpet: Mannington



Office furniture: Herman Miller           

Reading Tables:Vitra

Seating: Herman Miller

Chairs lounge:Bernhardt

Shelving: Space Saver



Elevators/Escalators: Kone