Central Library Receives AIA/ALA Library Building Award

From left: Exterior view of Central Library showing the magnificent new exterior lighting and the new atrium lobby

From left: Exterior view of Central Library showing the magnificent new exterior lighting and the new atrium lobby

Central Library was chosen by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as one of the six recipients to receive the 2013 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards.  Biennially, representatives from the AIA and the American Library Association (ALA) gather to celebrate the finest examples of library design by architects licensed in the U.S. This national award encourages excellence in architecture design and planning.  

Central Library is the main branch of the St. Louis Public Library system.  It was originally designed by the acclaimed architect, Cass Gilbert (designer of New York’s Woolworth Building, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the St. Louis Art Museum), in the Italian Renaissance style.  Made possible by a major donation from noted industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, it opened to the public in 1912.  

The original classically-designed building featured many forward-thinking design elements for its time, including a building within a building; a seven-story stack tower with glass floors; exquisite Beaux Arts ceiling paintings; beautifully molded craft ceilings in the historic rooms, many modeled after European buildings; marble floors and massive brass lattice doors; striking stained-glass windows in the two main stairwells; and carved library quotes and architectural accents on the exterior, etc.  All of these historical elements have been restored or replicated by modern-day St. Louis craftspersons.  

BSI started construction in June 2010 with one main priority:  to re-invent the Library to serve modern-day users while restoring the historical architecture back to its former greatness.  The Library now offers an 83 percent increase in space available for public use, including a new Center for the Reader, expanded children’s and teen areas, and the new Creative Experience. Several conference rooms, computer areas, a café and ADA accommodations have been incorporated.  Also included in the revitalization is a beautiful 250-seat auditorium/theatre that now occupies a space originally used for coal storage.  Central’s historic Great Hall, foyer, and large historic rooms have been fully restored to their initial splendor, while also outfitted with fully updated mechanical and electrical systems.  At the same time, broadband infrastructure, HD Discovery Walls, and Wi-Fi have been installed throughout the building.  The library's former seven-story “stack” tower, which contained the bulk of the collection out of view, has been removed and a soaring atrium space created with an inviting new Locust Street Atrium entrance.  High-density, modern storage space has also been added throughout the building.  The Library opened ahead of schedule just in time to celebrate its Centennial Year in November 2012.  

As the jury from the AIA commented, "The blend of old and new is simply masterful. Truly grand and fantastic—there is so much to like here."

For more information about the AIA award and to view more pictures please click here: