Participants collaborate on the design challenge



OPN Speaks: Library Journal’s Design Institute in St. Louis

Last Friday a group from OPN traveled to St. Louis to participate in Library Journal Magazine’s Design Institute. The event was hosted at the beautifully-renovated St. Louis Central Library and brought together leading architectural firms with 100 library directors from across the country. The Design Institute is held twice a year and provides expert panel discussions with librarians and architects on pressing topics and trends in library space and design. OPN designers Bradd Brown, Wes Reynolds, Mindy Sorg, Heather Lynxwiler and Toby Olsen attended the event.

Design Challenge: Library Meets Co-Op

One of the unique aspects of the Design Institute is that the library directors are asked to submit their own design challenges. Library Journal selects a handful of these challenges and pairs the library directors with an architectural team. During the event the architectural team has the opportunity to lead attendees through a design exercise to explore the possibilities of the challenge. The results of the design session are then presented to the entire group.

OPN was paired with Sarah Lawton, Director of the Pinney Branch of the Madison Public Library in Wisconsin. Pinney is the second busiest library in the city, serving a diverse population through an expanding range of programs. Growth and an evolving service model has prompted library leadership to explore the possibility of developing a new location for the Pinney branch. The project has community support and the library board has recommended that funding be allocated for the design and build of a new Pinney.

The proposed location for the new Pinney is part of a mixed-use development on Madison’s vibrant East Side. The site sits a quarter-mile from Lake Monona and close to Madison’s well-used bike paths and community gardens.  It is centrally located to area schools and one block from a YMCA. The excellent location and adjacent community assets make the development an appealing location for a branch library. These qualities also appeal to a well-established local grocery cooperative interested in developing a new location. The library and the co-op share a commitment to sustainability, community development, and a participatory model for programs and services. Beyond being potential good neighbors, the organizations have been discussing the possibility of developing connected space that would allow for shared integration of a café, outdoor seating, gardens and program space.

The design challenge explored what could happen when a library and a co-op get together to share space. OPN led a discussion with the group about the potential issues and benefits of co-location and looked specifically at how shared spaces can co-exist and intermingle in ways that benefit both organizations. The conversation then gave way to a hands-on exploration of the spatial realities of overlapping programs using site maps and blocks (see video below). The Pinney team walked away with a set of design strategies that will help them super-charge their project as they move forward with engaging their community stakeholders.

Pinney Design Challenge – The Idea Box from Kate Beihl on Vimeo.