Effective blend of contemporary and traditional architecture by Shepley Bulfinch fuels rise in library visitor numbers
Striding ahead as one of the fastest-growing communities in Arizona, the city of Show Low in the White Mountains region is home to a highly fluctuating number of residents. The city’s permanent population of 8,000 is almost doubled in the seasonal months as residents from the neighbouring cities of Tuscon and Phoenix flock to the elevated sunspot to bask in its warming glow.
As a rapidly-developing district, it was decided that Show Low was in drastic need of a downtown centre; an institutional hub where the community could gather and socialise with both permanent and seasonal residents. Local practice Shepley Bulfinch (formally known as merzproject architecture + urban design) was selected to instigate a two-part streetscape improvement plan, creating a state-of-the-art library from the ground-up and transforming the existing library building into an expansive City Hall.
Now complete, the Show Low library has proven to be a huge success, with a high percentage of new library users and an increased amount of daily visitors. Drawing on authentic White Mountains architecture, the 20,000 sq ft complex reflects local traditions of lodge construction with a contemporary twist. A large glass sheet encases the exterior, folding in on itself at the entranceway and enabling immense volumes of natural daylight to filter into the two internal spaces.
Jonah Busick, Director at Shepley Bulfinch and lead architect on the scheme explains: “This project attempts to blend local White Mountain traditions with a contemporary crisp feel, and the architecture and project implementation completely fulfill that expectation.” The glass entranceway has been directly aligned with that of the neighbouring City Hall to create a civic portal, creating an ‘entry experience [that] draws the immense traditions and memories of the old library into its new location’.