First DC Public Library in Public-Private Building Venture Opens in West End

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CORE architecture + design’s interior library design integrates DC Public Library’s approach to facility design and community programming with overall building aesthetic.

CORE architecture + design

CORE architecture + design

“We were thrilled to partner again with the Library to create a library space for the West End neighborhood that celebrates the community and will inspire patrons for years to come,” said CORE founder and principal Dale Stewart, AIA.

DC’s West End community can now gather and enjoy programming at the brand new 20,000 SF West End public library. Developer EastBanc, Inc. and the DC Public Library chose CORE architecture + design, a prominent Georgetown-based architecture and design firm, to design the West End Library interior. CORE worked with TEN Arquitectos (design architect) and WDG (base building architect of record) to complete the project. This new LEED Gold-designed library and community-gathering space (at 2301 L Street, NW) opened officially on December 9th during a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Mayor Muriel Bowser, and many DC Government, Library and project leaders.

Working with TEN Arquitectos, the goal was to create a library space that was seamlessly integrated and harmonized with the base building design while celebrating the Library's forward-thinking approach to its facilities’ design and multitude of programmatic offerings and services for the community.

“We were thrilled to partner again with the Library to create a library space for the West End neighborhood that celebrates the community and will inspire patrons for years to come,” said CORE founder and principal Dale Stewart, AIA. In addition to the new West End Library, CORE has worked with the Library on numerous projects including: Mount Pleasant Library, Rosedale Community Center and Library, and the Georgetown and Tenleytown Interim Libraries.

The library interior is an airy, bright and inspiring modern space with soaring angled columns. The Library focused on having open sightlines for intuitive wayfinding and easy staff supervision. The stacks are under the mezzanine giving them an intimate private feeling, while the reading tables are within the high-ceilinged space reminiscent of the grand reading rooms of historic libraries. The library space flows into the adjacent café retail space, and its glass façade seamlessly integrates with the building architecture. The courtyard gives access and visual connection to the building lobby with greenery spanning between the two spaces while its finishes compliment those of the building.

“Our goal was to create a visual and personal connection to both the new building and the surrounding neighborhood,” said CORE lead designer Daniel C. Chapman. “We took advantage of the large windows for great street visibility and used color, texture, lighting, and form at the interior to create inspiring spaces with intuitive human connections and transitions from area to area.”

CORE developed a bright, fresh, and welcoming atmosphere using vivid accents throughout the space to create an inspiring spatial and visual journey for library patrons, all with a LEED Gold certification. Warm color tones – reds, oranges, yellows – and the stacks clad in bright-colored 3Form define the adult area of the library. The children’s zone is cooler blue, green, and magenta color tones. Neutral tones appear in: the terrazzo tile and carpet tile flooring; the perforated aluminum tile ceiling; and a large metal-mesh curtain that divides the café from the library when they are closed. CORE added warm perforated wood panels in some spaces to create warmth and provide keen acoustics. Finally, CORE and TEN worked with renowned lighting design firm George Sexton Associates and the base building architect WDG to develop the glass frit on the storefront to provide passive sun control along the south façade while creating an ethereal quality and soft texture to this prominent storefront.

“The library’s bright colors, lofty and airy spaces, bold lighting, and clean design create a striking and welcoming air to this civic space,” continued Chapman. “Diversity, history, and future potential are all celebrated in the design.”

To reflect the community’s diversity and history and to create inspiring vistas within the library space, the Library commissioned custom artwork from local artists Adrienne Gaither and Nekisha Durrett for the murals above the main reading room and within the children’s area. Gaither used her unique style to incorporate and celebrate the neighborhood’s history by featuring names of pivotal historical figures that lived in the area. These names are threaded into a more than 200-foot long bold, exciting visual tapestry of geometric forms. The art piece cannot be fully appreciated from one vantage point, and must be explored and discovered by patrons as they move through the length of the space. Durret created a bold, colorful mural for the children’s area with the theme of a garden party, inspired by the greenery in the adjacent courtyard space. The mural celebrates the curiosity of children and the discoveries they can make by reading, learning, and playing with other children.

CORE designed a very open layout that incorporates clearly defined areas for children, adults and teens. The new books and browsing area near the entrance and adjacent to the café, has the feeling of a bookstore. The self-checkout terminals are at the main circulation desk. The distinctive pavilion in the children’s area defines the space while creating a sense of warmth and scale with the wood structure that wraps around it. It also features a seating nook and interactive displays. The more casual teen area, located at the far end of the adult area, is separated by lower stacks and incorporates a technology bar, soft seating, and study tables.

“The West End branch serves a high volume of families so the children’s area was especially important,” continued Chapman. “We gave a lot of thought to sequencing how a family would enter the library, with strollers, etc. and how younger children need their own safe and dedicated learning space.”

The 500-person facility includes: 88 adult study table seats, some with computers; 12 teen study table seats; an 8-seat computer bar; 5 private study rooms; 24 elementary-age study table seats; and 10 early-childhood study table seats with various mixed soft seating in interactive areas. There are three multi-use meeting rooms: the smallest public conference room seats 12-14; the children’s program room seats 15-25; and the largest public auditorium-style meeting room seats 100.

CORE began working on the West End library in March 2012. The library opened on December 9, 2017.

In addition to CORE (library interior design and Architect of Record), the Library and EastBanc worked with: TEN Arquitectos (Design Architect, library and Square 37 development), WDG (Architect of Record, base building), Cosentini Consulting Engineers (MEP engineer & LEED consultant), Clark Construction (General Contractor), Oehme van Sweden & Associates (Landscape Design), Tadjer-Cohen Edelson Associates (Structural Design), George Sexton Associates (Lighting), and Core Engineers Consulting Group (Code compliance).

About the West End Library & Fire Station project:
On March 11, 2010 EastBanc, Inc. was selected to redevelop the District’s West End Library, Police Special Operations Building and Fire Station. For several years, EastBanc worked closely with the District of Columbia Government and the community to plan, design, and entitle two buildings to house a new library, residential condominiums, and retail space on Square 37, and a new fire station with affordable housing above, on Square 50. Both complexes are built as a public-private partnership between the District of Columbia Government, EastBanc, JBG Smith and Clark Enterprises. The project has received enthusiastic support from the Library, DCFEMS, ANC 2A, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the West End/Foggy Bottom communities as a whole.

About CORE architecture + design:
Under the leadership of Principals Dale Stewart, Guy Martin, Allison Cooke, and David Cheney, CORE thrives on complex projects and leads with experience, understanding that their best work comes from designing hand in hand with their clients. Bringing a spirit of exploration to each project, CORE believes that design has the power to shape experiences. Visit and follow COREdc on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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