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Lawrence Public Library, Kansas, United States 
Thursday 04 Aug 2011
 
Gould Evans splits the critics 
 
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Editorial

Mixed reviews for Lawrence Library design 


Last week the leaders of the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas unveiled the new design for a $19m expansion of a library located at Seventh and Vermont Streets. Designed by Gould Evans, the expansion adds 20,000 sq ft of space to the existing 47,000 sq ft building and dramatically transforms its appearance with long horizontal windows framed by terra cotta stone panels to give it ‘a more open and natural feel’.

At the unveiling, Library Director, Bruce Flanders described the design as ‘inspirational’. But judging from the over 100 posts on the Lawrence Journal’s web site, a local newspaper, the design has been overwhelming derided by those who weighed in as ‘too expensive’, and ‘out of character’: not to mention ‘a butt ugly building’ that ‘looks like a child’s Lincoln log set’.

Perhaps the comments are a sign of the times…mere tensions between a community that seeks to curb public spending and the powers that be that see it differently. But clearly this is not the reaction one hopes for when vetting a new design to the public.

The project does have some controversial aspects that have yet to be addressed, namely how to make the building appear more ‘monumental’ when the adjacent parking garage that is part of the project has yet to be designed and will be at least a storey taller than the library proper, due to structural limitations of the existing library building.

While the comments about the design could be called a ‘rush to judgment’ as so much more is yet to be learned, one could equally argue that the design itself was rushed in to public view. The integration of the parking garage is an important aspect of this project and one that is especially concerning to the locals.

Going forward, the library plans to host several public forums on the design to get more feedback before taking the plans to the City Commission for approval in mid-August. Jane Huesemann, a principal with Gould Evens, told the Lawrence Journal that ‘the current plans call for the garage to be 10ft taller than the new building’. If city commissioners decide to add another level to the garage, resistance to the current design may grow.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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