A middle-earth between nature and culture

nFORM Studio's Ann Arbor District Library offers a large reading area amongst other things

by Malcolm Clark
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American architects inForm Studio have designed the new wing of the Ann Arbor District Library, in the Great Lakes region of the United States, in Michigan State. The library is the focal point of a very large community and proposes a range of services which many other librarians would probably turn their noses up at.

It was, indeed, one of the first public libraries in America to experiment (successfully) the lending of video games to attract adolescents and young children to the library. However, it is not limited to this alone, indeed it hosts various kinds of tournaments, dancing and cooking courses and so on. This library is a flexible place for socialising and is like a middle-earth, somewhere between knowledge and various interests.

The library is situated on the edge of a large woodland area near to the city of Ann Arbour. It is the result of patient participated design work, which was capable of preserving a great deal of indeterminacy, while maintaining flexibility. From an architectural viewpoint, the most characteristic elements are the enormous tree trunks, used as pillars, running along the whole glazed façade and communicating with its regular layout.

Inside we can admire a skilful and imaginative use of ash, which flows from the main entry floor and walls into a ceiling condition and also as decorative element. The honey-coloured light of the wood and the great window from which the woodland can always be seen are the main elements of the successful relationship between building and natural context.

This new wing is, therefore, an extremely successful model of sustainable design, the winner of an AIA award, which exploits natural exposure and light, regulates the temperature with its green roof, re-uses rainwater and manages summer cooling with a system of convective movement.

    Ann Arbor District Library 41

    Ann Arbor District Library

    Ann Arbor / United States / 2008