The first impression of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Dublin branch is that of modernity, flamboyance, and exclusivity. Still, as a pedestrian walks along Rock Cress Street, they find themself climbing up the stairs of the 42000 sqft extensive Columbus Metropolitan Library. The integration of this facility with its urbanscape is seamless through its circulation, complimenting the visually arresting facade which draws in the pedestrian. The firm NBBJ has once again struck a balance between functionality and form to guarantee endurance and acceptability, considering this project replaces the old library of Dublin city, Ohio. 

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Columbus Metropolitan Library as a link between the built and people © Chuck Choi

Concept

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Understanding the schematics of the project © NBBJ

Form

The building is stacked in three layers, each with its objective yet connected holistically to give this library a physical ethos of its own. The top layer faces outward and then angles inward, establishing a connection to the middle layer, which faces outward and is completely transparent. The third layer, fabricated in heavy materiality, is inward-looking by its bevelled openings that create welcoming entrances and, at the same time, show a muted conformity to the slightly rotated second-floor footprint.

Function

The building, through its form, inclines towards the adjacent multi-level car parking and the main street, thus establishing itself closer to the public. Vertically, interior double-height spaces speak up to create a visual connection and bring in sufficient sunlight.

Planning

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First Floor Plan ©NBBJ
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Second Floor Plan ©NBBJ

The two floors of the library, smartly stacked into three layers of the exterior facade, have open planning that upholds the spirit of community. The main entrance on the South facade leads one to Welcome Zone through the multiple steps of the public plaza. The East entry takes the visitor through ingenious reading terraces, which are a series of reading spaces on different levels, overlooking the main street, and reaching the level of the Welcome Zone via the Plaza Lounge. By the time the visitor reaches the Welcome Zone, they have experienced the integration of the interiors with the community through public spaces. 

Once inside, there are spaces where the visitor can go for individual reading or just go through volumes of books in the browsing area. Spaces demarcated for children to help them work while playing is on the first level itself, taking care of the segregation of different target audiences. 

The staff area is located on the west side, with connectivity from both public and personal ends. The staircase is a feature element that incorporates a curved bookshelf. Lounges are placed along the curtain walls of the East facade, providing the viewer with an overlook of the main street.

Landscape

Axonometric view to understand landscape patterns © NBBJ

The hardscape and the built part of the project are balanced through green patches and infiltration basins with coherent connections to the building elevation and plan. The exterior is brought into the interior space as reading terraces sit analogously with the infiltration basins, separated only through glass. As the interior terraces sit with the basin, the basin sits with exterior steps, leading the pedestrian from the High Street to the public plaza, where a resting space welcomes them. The other, a wider set of steps along the high street, is accompanied by a gentle ramp, ensuring accessibility and natural circulation to the Historical Homage Artefacts.

Materiality

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The facade and its materials © Chuck Choi

The facade is done by “Pioneer Cladding and Glazing Systems, Inc.” Products that have been used are Curtain Walls (For front facade), Punched windows (For backside office facade), curved/ trapezoidal dynamic glazing, louvres, and metal panels. The metal panels on the front face slowly give way to glass panels along a South to North direction in a nondescript manner, thus creating an exemplary facade. The bottom layer is cladded with dark grey stone, which reflects well with elements of the landscape as well. The duality of modern metal materials and earthy stone materials truly gives the building an iconic look.

Conclusion

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Reading Terraces overlooking Infiltration Basins © Chuck Choi
Infiltration Basins along the exterior steps © Chuck Choi

The library indeed upholds the values of community development through its conceptual and built philosophy. Itself a relatively small building in the context of its large urbanscape, and the library leaves a heavy impact. The transparency of the facade where required, the self-guiding pathways to interior space, and the effortless placement of a public plaza in the building compound all contribute to integrating the library with its environment while also increasing the visitor flow. Although the NBBJ trademark facade of the building is eye-catching, it is the well-thought circulation pattern and vertical assemblage of spaces that give this public recreational facility a high ranking. It is not just a quintessential precedent for the architectural realm, but it gives much to think about society, people, and their behaviour patterns when provided with state-of-the-art recreational opportunities. It increases the usage of the place and brings the people of the community together. 

In conclusion, what one can learn from the Columbus Metropolitan Library is how the built environment can smoothly spill into its urban context without disrupting any public activities but rather facilitating them.

References

“Columbus Metropolitan Library Dublin Branch / NBBJ” 15 Nov 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 Aug 2022. <https://www.archdaily.com/928538/columbus-metropolitan-library-dublin-branch-nbbj> ISSN 0719-8884

Author

Anqa is a practicing architect, working in the field of hospitality, residential and commercial spaces with Renesa Architecture Studio in Delhi. Hailing from Srinagar, Kashmir, her interest in architecture discourse arises from observing the culture of different cities and how architecture reacts to that. Her interests lie in theories and effects that architecture produces ranging from interior scale to urban scale

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