I spent last week in Phoenix to visit some friends, walk a potential project site & see some local architecture. Staying in the Lexington Hotel on N. Central just shy of Downtown & directly across the road from one of Phoenix‘s great public buildings – the Burton Barr (PHX) Central Library by Will Bruder, which also happens to be his largest building. Will Bruder is one of Phoenix’s great contemporary Achitect’s which I have visited several of his building in the past while in the Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale area – but this was on a whole different scale. Walking through Deck Park from the west & under the N. Central roadway the building seems massive with little articulation. It clearly defines the entry location through a shadow gap recess which is accentuated by a change in material (from copper to shiny metal panel). The majority of these facades consisting of corrugated copper sheeting & detailed concrete walls.
To the north & south the building changes in design to a more open, lighter facade consisting of a layering of sunscreen louvers & floor to ceiling glazing. From the interior, this screening on the Phoenix sun prevents the glazing from heating up the spaces while at the same time allowing a very soft filtered natural light into the spaces. The combination of this light from each end & skylights scattered through the interior spaces means that the building has less of a reliance on lighting & feels very pleasant to be in.
As you enter the building, you walk down a soft ramp with a very low ceiling height – which creates a sense of going ‘underground’ until you reach the central atrium space which opens up to all five levels. In the center of the atrium lies the circulation elements – an elevator core & an open staircase, both of which are surrounded by a relection pond. Besides the coin’s accumulated in the pond (reminiscent of Rome’s Trevi Fountain) this pond acts as a cooling mechanism for the building. As warm air inevitably finds it way in through the constant opening of the entry doors, it travels across the pond which cools it down sending a light freshness of air movement through the building. Any warm air collected in the space is then drawn through the roof space vents keeping the entire building constantly circulating & very pleasant to experience.
While I can’t recall the last time I visited a library (other than to see the building itself) it was really impressive to see this building full of activity. Each floor had various levels of literature & exhibition spaces – all seemingly scattered with either students or members of the public. If my local library was as inviting & comfortable as this building I may have visited it more.