Route 9 Library and Innovation Center by Perkins and Will was completed in 2017, located between Wilmington and New Castle, DE spread over 43,000 sq. ft. it was heavily surrounded by an industrial patch with interstate highways nearby. The site was deemed as an ‘island’ with limited access to public services. The main aim guiding the project was a need to design a library cum innovation center that could act as a safe haven even for the most deprived communities of Delaware with all the state of art facilities.
Under the Old Oak Tree
The concept for the design of the library was inspired by the canopy of a tree, as perforated metal sheets are used which filter the harsh sunlight and bask the interiors in diffused natural light just like the leaves on a tree. The simple idea behind the project was to motivate people to gather under the old oak tree, where ideas could be exchanged, experiences shared and knowledge imparted.
From times immemorial, before we had found words to constitute written heritage, people used to meet under the shade of a tree and listen to teachers preach lessons about life, this proposal is a modern-day rendering of the same values, which intends to acts as a conduit for different people to come together and share beliefs under this metaphorical tree.
Perkins & Will’s design philosophy revolves around finding holistic solutions with the end-users at the heart of it. For them aesthetics and pragmatic needs are not mutually exclusive, rather they go hand in hand to create spaces where people can lead a healthier life.
They incorporated these principles of giving pivotal focus to ‘people’ in their design by using age-appropriate anthropometric propositions which helped them customize the various spaces according to the need of its users—such as puzzles mounted on walls at heights appropriate for children, reading nooks designed to stimulate learning and interaction—all part of the finer details which came to define the entire project.
Orientation on Site
Perkins & Will placed the building such that the orientation of spaces helps in increasing interaction. The library is placed near Route 9 for easy access and to encourage people to come in, with the facade being visually porous, while the communal gathering spaces are planned as shared spaces in between the innovation center and library with organic fluidity in circulation from one to another.
Stonemasonry extrusions on the east and west side jut out to create a contrast from the light perforated metal façade anchoring the building to the ground.
The Metal Façade
Perkins & Will collaborated with Hendrick to manufacture the building’s iconic metal façade panels, which are made out of 0.190” thick aluminium. The cladding compromises a unique austin pattern such that each panel ends up with a distinct hole arrangement, just like two leaves cannot be completely alike in nature, the perforations are also unique for each panel. The panels are fastened to the sub-frame using concealed fasteners and are coated with Chinna-gold dust to protect them from environmental hazards.
Route 9 Library is like a big cauldron exploding with ingredients of distinct flavors; it has a lit bit of everything for everybody. Perkins & Will collaborated with experts from various fields to bring an array of facilities to the library to expand its user footprint. Along with conventional reading corners and bookshelves, the library comes with a STEM Lab, Media Production Studio, Scriptorium, a black box performance space, LEGO room, outdoor farmer’s market, teaching kitchen, and a sensory room developed in partnership with Autism Delaware, making it the first sensory room in a public library in the USA.
The STEM lab encourages students to gain hands-on experience and helps in fostering their curiosity by introducing them to new activities which challenge their imaginations. It’s on par with the contemporary education system and provides all-round development to students for their future.
Modern-day technology such as fiber-optic lighting done to resemble celestial objects in the ceiling of a story room provides children with an immersive experience that sparks their interest and encourages them to explore everything around them with a more observant eye.
A sensory room was specially designed for kids suffering from Autism which enables them to control and regulate the visual, auditory, tactile levels according to their comfort. Perkins & Will wanted to create a space where children with Autism could also feel welcomed and part of a larger community.
The project is an amalgamation of various vibrant talent hubs, which is envisioned as an exciting new addition to the urban landscape around it, carved to meet the needs of the community surrounding it.