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The next Chapter.

Cleveland's public library restores, renovates, and expands to meet today's needs.

The extraordinary evolution of the Cleveland Public Library is a novel in and of itself.

The timeline of the building's events tell the story of an urban planning and city design during a time in architectural history when beaux-arts thrived. Public buildings, such as libraries, were sacred places designed to encourage readers to grow, learn, and change -- cherishing and savoring every word of written text. Under this auspice, the Cleveland Public Library has become the third largest lending institution in the nation.

Based on the urban plan developed by Burnham, Brunner, and Carrere in 1903, the architectural firm Walker and Weeks designed the library according to a neo-classical style and the library opened the doors at its current location in 1925. When the $90 million dollar restoration and expansion of the library was initiated, the plans presented an opportunity to revive the many unique and period-characteristic features of the library, as well as building a new wing, which opened in April 1997. Several design elements contribute to the successful marriage of old and new at the library's distinctive, yet complementary wings.

Resuscitating History

An ornate hand-painted floral border was discovered beneath several layers of paint, bringing back to life a feature lost for decades. Once restored to their original splendor, the delicate flowers guide patrons through the hall and gallery leading to the John G. White Special Collections Room.

The focal point, Brett Memorial Hall, is the library's largest and main reading room, stretching to an impressive 112-feet-long and 38-feet-wide, with a groin-vaulted marble ceiling soaring to a height of 44 feet. The ceiling's coffers and medallions have been restored, providing the inspiration for the large-scale pattern, hand-loomed rugs that add to the comfort, style, and warmth of the space. Clerestory windows maximize the amount of natural light in the room.

The Main Building's historic light fixtures have been cleaned, polished, relocated, and even replicated to create a consistent theme throughout the space. Areas previously lit with fluorescent lamps now feature lamps and custom-designed fixtures to match the mood, style, and character of the library. On the building's main floor, lighting enhances the magnificence of the restored stencil-painted ceiling, original to the building.

In order to meet the demands of today's techno-savvy patrons without disturbing the historic integrity, New York City-based Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates (HHPA) incorporated a raceway in the floor to disguise data and power cabling. With outlets placed in the floor, and library tables equipped with a plug-in leg, portable PC users have the convenience of recording and composing documents, all from one of the library's "new" period chairs.

Contemporary Design

The Louis Stokes Wing, a 255,000-square-foot addition to the Main Building, is a 10-story structure capable of holding more than 30 miles of bookshelves, enough for 1.3 million books. Its contemporary design, an oval-shaped glass tower, dramatically contrasts with the main building's neo-classical style. Meticulous planning of interior finishes results in complementary elements and design continuity between the two wings. An open-shelf network with stacks is positioned toward the center of the building, and reading areas surround the perimeter of the rooms in the Main Building. This lay-out is repeated within the Stokes Wing, enabling patrons to move easily through the stacks and quickly locate the resources they need.

Color is a unifying feature within the design of both wings. "We used the same colors in the Stokes wing and Main Building but jazzed up the hue," says Dana Pizzetta, interior designer and library planner, HHPA. A palette of several accent colors highlights the rich tones throughout the new wing. Pizzetta explains that the bold use of color and warmth that it provides creates an atmosphere which contrasts with the gray weather so often associated with Cleveland.

According to HHPA, "A welcoming and energetic spirit embraces visitors as soon as they enter into the main lobby." Two brushed aluminum circulation desks are located along a large curved wall within two arches detailed in multi-colored tile patterns. The dramatic use of color, pattern, and lighting combine to create a theater effect that is both playful and inviting to library patrons. The reference desks in the Main Building are of similar design, but are patterned wood rather than aluminum.

Forward-thinking design has resulted in two unique spaces, that through similar and complementary finishes highlight both the library's commitment to history (though restoration of the Main Building) and today's high-tech, sleek, and contemporary aesthetics. As patrons of all ages explore the library's literature, the history of the structure and its newest addition envelop them in the never-ending story of Cleveland's past, present, and future.

Jana J. Smith is senior associate editor at Buildings magazine.

Project Team

Design Architect: Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associotes (HHPR)

Architect of Record: URS Greiner

Historical Architect: Robert P. Madison International

Construction Manager: Turner Construction Co.

Ceilings: USG

Products Used

Electrical/Electronics: Cutler-Hammer; Hubbell; Simplex

Elevator/Escalator: KONE

Floorcoverings: Rrnstrong; Forbo; Georgia Marble; Johnsonite; Monnington; Milliken; Show; Spinning Wheel Rugs

Furniture: Olivetti; Spacesaver; Steelcase

Hardware: Corbin-Russwin

HVAC: Trane

Paint: Benjamin Moore; Sherwin-Williams

Plumbing: American Standard

Signage: PSI

Walls/Partitions: Virginia Metal Co.

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Article Details
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Author:Smith, Jana J.
Publication:Buildings
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U3OH
Date:Jul 1, 2000
Words:863
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