Trahan Architects' downtown library design seeks better connection with the public
The Baton Rouge River Center, formerly called the Riverside Centroplex is comprised of five main facilities; the Arena, the Exhibition Hall, the Ballroom, Theater for Performing Arts and the River Center Library. Designed by John Desmond, the Riverside Centroplex was conceived as a chain of buildings that would create a framework around the Old State Capitol. These buildings share a similar aesthetic that is both simple and stark, allowing one to appreciate the significance of the Old State Capitol. With closest proximity, the existing River Center Library frames the Old State Capitol with its interior atrium. Built in the 1970’s, the library carries with it many of that era’s unfavourable traits in it design, particularly an introverted monumentality that fails to effectively connect to the urban context.
This new facility seeks greater engagement with the urban context by activating the ground plane with exterior spaces of varying scales, such as reading areas and an urban patio. These supplemental spaces will support local cultural and community events. Integration with the neighbouring buildings is achieved by both scale and varying transparency. The mass of the building rolls up from the ground on opposite corners to reveal views of the Mississippi River bridge and Galvez Plaza. Reminiscent of a heavily worn book, the rippled translucent skin exposes the circulation and reading spaces that wrap the perimeter of the building. This spiraling foyer allows internal connections from floor to floor, while reinforcing the building’s urban edge.