Located at the heart of the Hilltop Campus, KMW’s sixth building project for Washington University was the expansion and renovation of the existing central university library. The program called for a perimeter expansion at grade; the complete replanning and renovation of all of non-stack areas; and the redesign of the entire exterior to enhance the existing character of this vintage 1962 facility and bring more natural light to the redefined reading areas. The reworking of the exterior entailed the replacement of the solid masonry walls on the east and west sides of the top floor with a sun-screened curtain wall and an expansion of the number of windows on the floor below.
A new 7,000-sf Internet café now occupies the southeast corner of the building, where an existing outdoor courtyard was transformed into a three–story atrium, providing a fresh spatial focus for both the library and the café. As part of the complete reconfiguration of the ground floor, the entrance was moved from the east to the south side of the building, improving the controlled access through a common entry vestibule and consolidating the various user services – circulation, reserve, reference, inter-library loan – into a single shared-services and checkout desk. In order to increase the visibility of the most important holdings, the reading and work areas of Special Collections, which houses rare and archival materials, were relocated to the ground floor.
The dramatic transparency of the ground floor creates views to and from the rest of campus: an assertion of the connection between the cloistered study of the library and the rest of college life.