Carnegie Stout Public Library
The renovation and restoration of Dubuque’s historic Carnegie library was a tremendous challenge. The 50,000-square-foot building consisted of the original Carnegie structure constructed in 1901 and a 1984 addition that, while dramatically increasing the size of the library, effectively created two separate halves, each with its own architectural style and personality, and with very little connection between the two. The 1984 addition also housed the majority of the public spaces, limiting the community’s opportunities to experience the historic portion of the building. The design team was challenged to unify these two disparate halves as a part of a building-wide reorganization and remodel, while reclaiming the historic, original portion of the building for public use. Rather than a strict historic restoration, which would limit the building’s functionality, the renovation honors the historic nature of the building, restoring certain key components, while re-purposing others for modern use.
To embrace the historic aspects of the original building, the team focused on a number of design goals:
- Opening the grand main entrance;
- Opening the historic mezzanine and skylight above;
- Renovating a community meeting room on the upper level while opening the skylight in that room;
- Reopening the exterior windows on the lower level, and relocating significant parts of the collection to the historic building.
Perhaps the most dramatic impact created by the new design is the experience of entering through the reopened historic main entrance. Since the 1984 addition, the mezzanine had been off-limits, the skylight was covered, a wall blocked views to the exterior windows, and the historic entry doors were locked. Today patrons stepping through the main entrance are greeted by an axial view through the historic lobby to the reinvented mezzanine seating area. The seating area is flooded with natural light from the skylights above and the dramatic windows on the back of the building.
The collection and seating areas are now equally divided between the historic portion of the building and the 1984 addition. The challenge of unifying the original and added portions of the building was perhaps the greatest difficulty faced by the design team. This was addressed by creating a new opening between the two building halves on the main level and simplifying vertical circulation. Two solutions that have dramatically increased the feeling of connection and improved patron circulation and way-finding. An historic central staircase that was removed in the 1984 remodel was reconstructed and reinstalled, restoring the original character.
The rotunda in the historic lobby acts as a unifying, signature feature that creates a dramatic “sense of arrival.” Taking cues from the rotunda, a round form is introduced as an arrival feature in both the Children’s Area and the Teen Area. In the Children’s Area, this custom built seating area becomes the heart of the space, while in the Teen Area, this contemporary rotunda-like feature signifies the entrance to the area and acts as a threshold or buffer between this age group and other patrons.
In addition to the final design and project management, OPN completed the pre-funding phase of planning and developed a presentation package of drawings and illustrations that were used by the library board for capital campaign fundraising.
“I am proud we had the foresight to choose your firm as our architects. I’ll always be grateful for the chance I had to be a part of helping to bring your inspiring vision for our library to the citizens of Dubuque.”
— Susan F. Lindsay, Former Board of Trustees Member, Carnegie-Stout Public Library