In 2011, Joplin, Missouri, was devastated by an EF5 tornado that tore through the town of 50,000 people, killing 158 and decimating everything in its one-mile swath. Damages totaled nearly $3 billion. Three years after the tornado, OPN Architects and Sapp Design Associates were hired by the city of Joplin to design a new library that would not only serve as a symbol for the city’s rebirth, but would also act as a cultural center and catalyst for economic development.
As the architects leading the design of the library’s interior, OPN collaborated extensively with the community to develop a design that fulfilled its goal for the library to be used in new and unimagined ways. The final design incorporates a large central lobby that serves as community gathering space. Off to either side of this lobby are exterior courtyards, one enclosed and the other open to the public with an adjacent outdoor learning classroom and sculpture lawn. Inside, a community room also serves as a storm shelter and other centrally located meeting and community spaces fulfill the city’s collective goal for the library to be a community hub.
Radiating off the lobby are the collection spaces, each under a dynamic sloping roof form that lifts up at the edges of the building to create tall volumes with terrific views and daylight, serving to connect the interior to the exterior and the library to the City of Joplin. A feature library, the Post Library is being incorporated into the new facility in a space that will highlight its impressive Art History collection with a modern gallery and lounge environment, inviting the community to stay and explore the treasures they have on display.