In June 2008 a major flood devastated Cedar Rapids pouring water into hundreds of buildings including the 25-year old Public Library and destroying much of its items. As a temporary solution the library refitted a 1,700 square metre space inside a retail mall outside the city centre and opened a small storefront presence close to its downtown home. In search for a new site, the library wanted to maintain a downtown and street-front presence as well as be accessible to public transport. The new site acts as a bookend to the small central park opposite the Cedar Rapids Art Museum. The client side was driven by a young, new director who envisioned moving library services very much into the future, treating the library more as a retail book store than a traditional library.
The T-shaped library has no main circulation area as staff members are filtered throughout the collections at small versatile kiosks. The architects concentrated fixed items (e.g. toilets, staircase, mechanical room) into one area leaving the majority of the space versatile to adapt to a variety of spatial layouts over time. The large open collection spaces are filled with a variety of adjustable furniture and include a wide column spacing of approximately 10m spans. The second floor of the library uses a raised access floor system to run cabling and add in the flexibility of the space. While the large public plaza space in front of the library is designed as a series of plateaus which can be used as tier seating for special events like local parades or marathons and is equipped with electrical power for temporary uses. The majority of the library is cladded as a rainscreen system using swiss pearl panels with exposed fasteners which allow the panels to be switched out easily without disturbing the thermal break.
Images courtesy of OPN Architects, Inc.