On Jan. 9, Slover Library, in Norfolk, Va., will open to the public as part of a continued effort revitalize the city's downtown and provide a public learning forum. Designed by New Haven, Conn.-based Newman Architects, and executed by project architect Tymoff+Moss, the 138,000-square-foot structure took six years to complete. It involved restoring a 115-year-old former customs house, which had been converted into a library in 2009, and building a seven-story glass-walled addition. The library joins other local projects including improved infrastructure, vibrant mixed-use developments, and a new light rail system.
The addition's exterior is characterized by layered, curving incremental slabs of steel and glass that let visitors see inside the project. To make the interior of the old customs house accessible to those entering through the new addition, the design team opened up the western wall and restored the original masonry. An interior cortile surrounded by enclosed rooms is formed by the conjoined addition and infrastructure of the customs house. At the center is the forum, a three-story atrium that links components of the project and will serve as a gathering space for community meetings. The hubs within the library to house these endeavors include integrated computing labs, digital trainings space, media labs, interactive displays, video productions spaces, and meeting rooms. All of these design concepts stress the larger idea that community access to technology will be a key part of the space.
“The 21st century public library has to adapt to the age of e-books and online content. No longer is it defined as a repository of books, but more as a community anchor to encourage civic engagement. We designed Slover Library to respond to the growth of Norfolk and to create a space that welcomes all of its residents, and learners of all ages,” said Herbert S. Newman, FAIA, founder of Newman Architects and design principal, in a press release.
The construction funds of $65 million project cost, included a $40 million gift from Frank Batten, and a $21 million contribution from the city of Norfolk. To commence the building process, the Slover Foundation was created, which raised the $4 million to raise awareness for the civic space.