Six recipients honored with the 2019 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards

For Immediate Release
Mon, 05/13/2019


Fred Reuland

LLAMA Program Officer, Continuing Education

Library Leadership and Management Association

American Library Association


The Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced today the six recipients of the 2019 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards. The LLAMA Buildings and Equipment Community of Practice and the AIA developed this award program to encourage and recognize excellence in the architectural design of libraries. As the traditional role of libraries evolves, the designs of these community spaces have changed to reflect the needs of the surrounding residents, as represented by the recipients of these awards. Photos and more information about the winning designs are available at
Louisville Free Public Library South Central Regional Library
Architect: MSR Design and JRA Architects
Owner: Louisville Free Public Library
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
With its angular forms and industrial materials, this library reflects human intervention in the natural world while celebrating its organic surroundings. Sitting in a 100-year-old forest in an area where clear cutting for development has long been the custom, the project harnesses sustainable design to create a flexible and responsive program.
To demonstrate a new form of sustainable development, the team created a learning environment for both traditional and emerging library functions through a strategy that conserved the existing tree canopy. The forest was preserved beyond 15 feet of the library’s perimeter to create a footprint that is as small as possible for the 40,000-square-foot structure. The library experience continues outside thanks to an exterior reading room, and large spans of glass offer inspiring views of the light-dappled site. Certified LEED-NC v.3 Gold, the library is an icon of sustainability for the community it serves.
The library’s form was intentionally skewed to address the path of the sun, which allows light to pour in through an opening in the forest’s canopy. Clerestory and long ribbons of windows allow for a fully daylit floor plate. Outside, the form provides shade in the summer and bounces reflected light into the interior during the winter.
Operating in an underserved neighborhood, the program urges interaction rather than simple transactions. Staff-only spaces are concentrated, and the resulting efficiencies allowed for greater public and flexible space. A complex program of volumes in a single open space allows the library to remain nimble in making short-term adjustments and adaptable for long-term changes. A 16-foot-tall truss spanning 200 feet provides support in lieu of obstructive columns, and a moveable wall system in the meeting and program rooms allows both spaces to merge with the main space when not in use. An ideal venue for community events and innovative programming, the library issued nearly 3,000 new library cards within the first six months of operation.
Half Moon Bay Library
Architect: Noll & Tam Architects
Owner: City of Half Moon Bay
Location: Half Moon Bay, California
Flexibility is key for this new library, which operates in a 270-square-mile service area along California’s coast in San Mateo County. As the primary community facility for the large region, the library was designed to meet the needs of a diverse population, including immigrant and non-English-speaking residents.
With no surfboards or wave motifs to be found, the design evokes a refined coastal palette through simple, natural materials such as reclaimed wood, copper, and rough stone. Throughout, natural light and views of nature draw the outdoors to the interior. An exposed wood and metal composite roof structure tops the second floor to create a dramatic room that recalls the rigging of a ship as it looks out onto the Pacific Ocean.
To better serve the needs of its clientele, the library conducted a rigorous assessment of its collections and circulation. As a result, the library decided to reduce the amount of physical materials on the shelves to offer space for other critical programmatic materials. The reinvented collection now reflects the needs of the community and includes an expanded DVD and media collection, a greater number of materials in Spanish, and resources for literacy development. Additional materials are shared throughout the county-wide library system, so users still have access to a broader range of materials on short notice.
Providing access to emerging technology is a prominent element of the library system’s mission and is particularly important among recent immigrants and seasonal agricultural workers. Desktop computers can be found throughout the library, and laptop computers and GoPro cameras can be checked out. Patrons also have access to a makerspace that features sewing, embroidery, and button-making machines as well as a 3D printer, robots, and a virtual reality system.
The library’s final program and budget were developed through intense community input and with consideration to a heated California construction market. Local support was critical to the project’s success, and the team initiated a community engagement process at the outset. All concepts and revisions were illustrated throughout the process, giving all stakeholders an opportunity to see how the design had evolved and responded to their input.
Colorado College Tutt Library Expansion and Transformation
Architect: Pfeiffer
Owner: Colorado College
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Invigorated by Colorado College’s commitment to carbon neutrality, this new library embraced the net-zero mentality from the start. The project follows the planning principles and recommendations set forth in the college’s long range development plan and focuses on open space, flexibility, environmental stewardship, and moments of social and intellectual engagement.
The team’s vision for the facility, originally designed by Walter Netsch in 1961 and expanded in the 1980s, reflects the shifting nature of libraries and the college’s values. The 1980s addition was demolished, returning the adjacent Palmer Quad to its original stature and strengthening its importance on campus. The project has radically transformed the library’s relationship to the campus through new entries, a sheltered courtyard, and three new exterior spaces. Its massing and ample windows reverse the library’s former introspective focus while providing inspiring views of nearby Pikes Peak. Cementing the geographical context is the library’s exterior cladding, which features red panels that reference locally mined red sandstone.
Inside, library services and resources mingle with academic programs and instructional spaces, including an experimental classroom, that easily transform into group study spaces in the evening. The renovation more than doubled the library’s seating capacity, and new spaces support digital scholarship, including a GIS lab and data visualization suite. It also houses a café and spaces that allow the academic experience to traverse the building’s walls. In an effort to support the college’s block schedule, in which one subject is the focus of intense study for three weeks, and the need for immediately accessible materials, the general collection remains within the library in new compact shelving. Special collections are housed in a specially designed vault.
Through increased space, light, and technological innovations, the Tutt Library has been re-established as the intellectual heart of Colorado College’s community.
Calgary's New Central Library
Architect: Snøhetta and Dialog
Owner: Calgary Municipal Land Corporation
Location: Calgary, Alberta
On a former brownfield infill site in rapidly expanding Calgary, this new library can accommodate more than twice as many annual visitors as the previous facility. Fitting seamlessly into the complex urban condition surrounding it, the library boasts a generous 75,000 square feet of entry plaza and outdoor amphitheater that allows its lively programming to spill outside.
The library is wrapped in a striking triple-glazed façade composed of a modular, hexagonal pattern that echoes the library’s efforts to welcome all visitors. Variations of the pattern are scattered across the building’s curved surface in alternating patterns of fritted glass and aluminum, giving rise to shapes that evoke familiar forms. The whole building is encased in the same pattern, allowing every side to operate as the “front” of the library, and the same visual vocabulary plays a significant role in the library’s new visual identity and wayfinding inside.
A light-rail line crosses the site, following a curved path from above to below ground, which had served as a dividing line between two neighborhoods. In response, the team lifted the main entry over the encapsulated train line, while gently terraced slopes rise up to the heart of the building. The geometry of the façade was carved away, revealing an expansive wood archway that warmly greets visitors and references Chinook cloud arches that are common to the region. Made entirely from planks of western red cedar from British Columbia, the library ranks among the largest freeform timber shells in the world.
Inside, the program is organized on a spectrum from fun to serious. The library’s more engaging public activities are featured on the ground floor, while quieter study areas are found above. At street level, multipurpose rooms ring the building to enhance connectivity with the outside, while the mezzanine hosts the children’s library and its numerous playhouses.
A bastion of light and activity, this new library has reenergized a spirit of culture, learning, and community in Calgary.
Barnard College - The Milstein Center
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)
Owner: Barnard College
Location: New York
A new hub for academic and intellectual life in the heart of Barnard College’s campus in New York City, the 128,000-square foot Milstein Center represents a crossroads for students, the community, and partners across the city. A place for interdisciplinary scholarship, the center reflects the college’s approach to curriculum and the synthesis of all forms of knowledge and data.
Emerging as a new prototype for libraries, the center celebrates Barnard’s collections and archives while providing ample pedagogical opportunities for faculty and support for new learning experiences for the college’s students. The team worked closely with Barnard’s community to ensure the center meets the ever-evolving demands of higher education. Equipped with new technologies and imbued with essential flexibility, the design promises to serve the college well into the future.
Overall, the design is peppered with study spaces as well as creative, exploratory learning centers and service points, all suitable for everything from individuals to large groups. Physically, digitally, and philosophically, the library unites all of the college’s sundry departments and disciplines across its campus. It is connected to a range of flexible spaces that include space for empirical reasoning, digital humanities, and even a movement lab. Above it all, in the Vagelos Computational Science Center, students and faculty engage in pioneering research on data and computation.
The team’s design is a response to the campus’ lawn, its signature open space, which the center overlooks. The building’s massing, a five-story base that rises through a series of terraces, helps maximize the sunlight that reaches the lawn throughout the day. The terraces also help reduce the heat island effect and invite Barnard’s community to use outdoor spaces for study and contemplation. At the top of the center, a cantilevered volume houses a faculty lounge that affords vistas of the Hudson River, Columbia University’s campus, and Midtown Manhattan. This project is expected to achieve LEED v3 Silver Certification.
An embodiment of Barnard’s heralded culture of intellect and collaboration, the center equips the college to continue its support of young women for another 125 years.
Albion Public Library
Architect: Perkins + Will Canada Inc
Owner: Toronto Public Library
Location: Toronto
Situated in one of Toronto’s post-war suburbs, this new library relies on its graceful gestural form and colorful facade to promote engagement. It assumes a vital role in a community that has become an arrival point for new immigrants, offering traditional services as well as cultural orientation, social integration, enhancement of employment skills, and access to technology.
The new library replaces an aged facility, but the team’s consultations with the community early in the design process revealed significant opposition to closing the existing library for the two years it would take to construct a new one. In response, the team shifted the site to an existing parking lot. Once construction was complete, the former library site was developed into a multi-use urban plaza that supports parking as well as events and community-focused markets — a needed amenity in Albion’s largely undefined public realm.
The context is dominated by a six-lane arterial road and the massive Albion Centre shopping complex, but the library softens its car-oriented nature through plantings, seating, and a community garden. The community’s desire for an urban oasis spurred the team’s design concept of a walled garden defined at its perimeter by a polychrome screen of terracotta louvers. The highly textured facade is lifted at the corners to reveal points of entry and key programmatic areas, while the undulating timber roof slopes down to three courtyards that draw light, color, and nature into the library’s heart.
Community input drove an architectural concept that is suited to a diverse, high-needs population, and the universal language of a garden draws together people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. While the plan is visually open and readily accessible, the courtyards help create a series of discrete environments. The marriage of identity and territory meshed with a welcoming framework echoes a vision of Canadian society for newcomers.
The jury for the 2019 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards included: Charles A. Higueras, FAIA (Chair), San Francisco Public Works, San Francisco, California; Becca Cavell, FAIA, Bora Architects, Portland, Oregon; Brian Chase, Director, Normal Public Library, Normal, Illinois; Jill Friedmann, Assistant Dean, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona; Clem Guthro, Orange County, California; and Charles Wray, AIA, Quinn Evans, Richmond, Virginia
About the American Institute of Architects
Founded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through nearly 300 state and local chapters, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit
About the Library Leadership and Management Association
The mission of the Library Leadership and Management Association is to advance outstanding leadership and management practices in library and information services by encouraging and nurturing individual excellence in current and aspiring library leaders. Visit