The subject of this studio was the design of a sustainable library, as defined by the AIAS/Kawneer competition. The criteria for this competition were met; however, the studio seeks to push further into the subject of what constitutes a library/archive and why society feels it necessary to store such materials. As a designer, we were seeking to maximize the poetic and cultural tradition of the library as an archetype that can serve as a springboard. In addition, this studio pushed passed the issue of sustainability as defined by the LEEDS criteria to understand this subject as a transformational force in contemporary life.

Given this, there are three main objectives for this project. Namely, the exploration involved: 1.] The library as a traditional icon that transcends specific cultures, 2.] The changes that must be brought about to allow the successful transformation of the library within the twenty-first century, and 3.] How authentic architectural significance emerges within the technologies and agendas deemed sustainable at present.

transgression of boundaries

[AIAS | kawneer competition]

2008 envd-4510

denver, colorado : location

michael jenson : instructor

blake olson : partner

50,000 sq.ft. : size

context: findings on the site
15th street and little raven blvd.

The site, 15th and Little Raven Denver Colorado, is located between two boundaries, one being the newly developed, high density residential zone and the other being the older commercial and small residential area. The site, located right in the middle of these two zones, is in a place without boundaries, and has an opportunity to connect and transgress the original boundaries of the different zones.

The only connection between the two different boundaries is the Confluence Park. Here the Platte River and the Cheery Creek connect. Not only is this a physical boundary, but a historical one as well, marking the spot where natives unmarked gold, founding the city of Denver. To create a library adjacent to the park will add to the quality of Confluence Park and expand the boundary of the amenities that the park is missing, which include bringing the history back into the site and attracting the two encompassing boundaries into our site, transgressing them to form a new single boundary.

Development in the new high density residential zone has been extremely fast pasted and evolved the once barren land into a luxurious place for single/middle to high class workers to reside. The development has redefined the Lower Downtown area and created high density apartments/condominiums giving the 15th Street and Little Raven Street and modern aesthetic. RTD (Regional Transportation District) of Denver is proposing to transform the old Union Station, which was the railroad hub, into a new light rail central point. If this occurs, which may or may not, then the proposed library site will be two blocks away from the new light rail station, giving it much needed access to the public not adjacent to the site.

Pedestrian traffic flow is a lot more accessible to our site. From all four corners of the proposed library site new bridges, such as the new millennium bridge, are available to cross the Platte River to reach our site. The Cheery Creek bike trail intersects and runs adjacent to the library site. The proposed library site is located in a site that can be viewed from three hundred and sixty degrees all around, which means there are no spots on the library that can be hidden away. All boundaries will be exposed and seen from different vantage points. This is why this site is perfect for a sustainable library that transgresses boundaries.

site concept diagrams

site plan
site + concept diagram
massing diagram

entry view

archiving device [closed]

archiving device [extended]

overall concept

Transgression of boundaries means to break the original/set boundaries of the site and program that were given originally and move past them in a way that is sustainable and brings forth a new twenty-first century library. This will in turn bring out a library that has never been seen or done before and has the potential to set the new accustomed way of thinking about libraries in the twenty-first century.

The new library is a keeper of the archive, a showcase for new information, a place for thought, discussion and reflection - a vibrant occurrence. To achieve this new library status the existing boundaries must be broken to show the new sustainable outcome. The fact that a single library can now store the digital content of all libraries, together represent potential rethinking: new forms of storage enable the space dedicated to real books to be contained; new forms of reading enhance the aura of the real book. The first operation has been the "combining" and consolidation of the apparently uncontrollable creation of programs and media. By combining like items together, we have identified platforms, each a programmatic cluster that is architecturally defined and equipped for maximum, dedicated performance. Because each section of program is designed for a unique purpose, they are different in size, density, opacity. The in-between spaces are the breaks in the boundaries of a library, showing that a library is not a single box, but many combined together.

northwest reading room

transverse section [a]
programmatic composition

In the strategy of transgressing boundaries, the programmatic layout is broken apart in a way to break the initial boundaries. The boundaries then will be blurred between spaces/programs giving a connection that is obscured. The central space will act as the heart of the library playing with inside and outside, which will blur the boundaries of the programmatic features. In trying to blur boundaries the two outer programs will interconnect with the central space and the central space with the two outer programs. To do this, the separate space will be clearly defined by using different materials/systems. The spaces will then be blurred by never knowing where a space ends and where the other space begins.

With the breaking up of the program into different boundaries, this allows spaces that normally would be hidden, to be more hierarchical. The central, open, space will in turn define the heart of the library.

Circulation through one program to another is simply done by taking the smush diagram and figuring out the columns that support the different levels. This means visitors have easy access to and from program to program. Circulation can also been seen by the interlocking programs in the centrally located space. This shows that visitors will be able to easily identify where each program is located and how to arrive there. And because the programs are weaved together, the boundaries are blurred giving the visitor a sense of not knowing where to go next. But this problem is solved by clearly defining the transitions between spaces/programs. Because a different material/fa├žade is used to describe the different programs, boundaries are all transgressing and breaking all the time.


horizontal section [b]