the vision for the east marietta library

Chad Alexander Smith | December 16, 2016

Aerial photo (above) of the new library under construction

In working with the client, what was your firm's vision for the new library and cultural center?

As a firm, we believe Architecture is about transforming the world. We see architecture as an endless process of reinvention and reshaping, responding to our changing world. We believe the modern library also adopts this same sentiment.

The design team established five goals for the new facility. The team used these “project goals” as a departure point to begin the design and ultimately to determine the success of the architecture. 

• Context – embrace the landscape, with a vision to not just design a building, but a site in which the building will blend into its surroundings.

• Identity – create a facility that provides a unique landmark generating community pride.

• Layout – establish a well-developed plan with intuitive circulation, centrally positioned and highly visible service desk and multiple environments for a wide variety of users.

• Technology – incorporate state-of-the-art technology while forecasting future trends and building in flexible systems for multi-use functions.

• Sustainability – recognize the benefits of sustainable design practices and create a design with thoughtful solutions throughout.

What have been the biggest challenges on this project....and why?

The site. A requirement of the project was that the old library as well as the adjacent park had to remain in operation throughout the duration of construction. Being a small site, the design had to be squeezed between a tennis court and a stream with a wide buffer. The team overcame the restrictions by developing a linear floor plan organized by a central axis.

I understand the new facility will include classrooms, an art gallery, black box theater, outdoor amphitheater and music practice rooms. Can you share a few thoughts about the design for any/all of these -- especially the amphitheater and art gallery?

The new building is a joint effort between the Cobb County Public Library and the Cobb County Parks Department. The 31,000 sf single story building features a 20,000 sf library with a community room that sits 110, dedicated computer room, quiet study rooms, and a state of the art maker space with a music recording studio, green screen video production studio, practice rooms, 3-d printers and editing computers. The Cultural center includes a 300 seat amphitheater, a 180 seat black box theater, an art gallery, café and classrooms for 2-d art, sculpture and jewelry making. 

The facility will provide opportunities for children and adults alike. Programs will range from the simplest of crafts to the finest of fine arts; creative writing workshops, painting classes, jewelry making classes and sculpture classes are just a few examples of the ways that the new center will offer a wealth of opportunities to explore and understand art. The amphitheater will host local musicians, movie nights and a multitude of local groups, while the black box theater will be home to a local theatrical company.

Does your firm have experience in projects of this nature -- if so, how is that helpful on the East Marietta project?

Libraries are what we do. While designing this library we had three other libraries in design. We find this to be an advantage because we can share the latest thoughts on what services other libraries are providing to their patrons in different locations.

Any features you are particularly excited about?

Part of the design philosophy was this “passing thru” to the landscape. On a previous library, we had begun thinking about how we could see thru a column. We developed for East Marietta a column made of two steel channels situated back to back with a 3 inch space between them. Careful consideration was given to the placement of the required column's bridging so it would not interfere with the view thru the column. 

Upon entering the site, a patron follows a 2 foot wide demarcation on the ground that changes from river stone up onto a concrete bench that passes thru the front entry glazing, to a wooden bench, down to a stripe on the concrete gallery floor, up onto a concierge desk, back down onto the gallery floor and into the library thru a glass window and down to where it is articulated by a strip of carpet. The double channel columns are situated along this line providing someone with an unobstructed view from one end of the building to the other, thus offering a “passing thru”.

How does sustainability play a role in this project?

As a firm, we are committed to sustainability. We feel it is our responsibility to incorporate sustainable practices into our work whenever possible and we encourage our clients to adopt this sentiment for their projects. For East Marietta, the building was oriented to take advantage of daylight harvesting. Energy efficient HVAC systems were used as well as low flow plumbing fixtures and led lighting. Portions of the floor incorporate raised flooring so the interiors can be easily and economically reconfigured to respond to the patrons changing needs.

I understand the current library will ultimately be torn down....did that give the design team a little more freedom, in terms of not having to complement the existing structure (not really sure what else is located in the area?)

No. We would have much preferred to tear the old library down and close the park. The team developed a phasing plan to allow for continuous operation.

What else should readers know about your work on the new library and cultural center, and what do you hope visitors will take away from the project, once it's complete?

Today’s public libraries are unique community work spaces that serve an increasingly sophisticated consumer. As with all our libraries, our hope is this library will be an oasis for its community, a place where both mind and spirt will be renewed. We hope the design presents warm, inviting spaces for people to work, congregate, collaborate and share experiences while building community.