2011 Recipient | AIA/ALA Library Building Awards

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Arkansas Studies Institute | Notes of Interest

This Library History Institute combines three buildings of three different centuries and construction types into one architectural timeline, evoking imagery of pages of an opening book.

The Arkansas Studies Institute is a repository for 10 million historic documents and the papers of seven Arkansas Governors, including President Bill Clinton. Located in a thriving entertainment district comprised of rejuvenated warehouses near the Arkansas River, the design combines significant, but neglected buildings from the 1880’s and 1910’s with a new technologically expressive archive addition. This creates a pedestrian focused, iconic gateway to the public library campus - and the public face of Arkansas history.

The design philosophy is based literally on the book - a physical container of information, with pages flowing into a site-sensitive narrative of the building’s function. Taking cues from the medium for which the Institute was created, the entrance acts as an abstract book cover, pulled away from the building as a double wall, defusing western sunlight and heat in the atrium beyond.

Public Spaces - galleries, a café, museum, and meeting rooms - enliven streetscape storefronts, while the great library research hall encompasses the entire second floor of the 1914 warehouse building. A thin atrium pulls the new structure away to protect the old, stretching the building’s length and flooding all levels with light – a key sustainable strategy. 100 historic images in glass handrails signify that architecture can and should actively engage in storytelling. Suspended bridges span the gap between new and old, open and secure, today and yesterday.

The Arkansas Studies Institute weaves history, research, pedestrians, and a restored streetscape together, healing a gaping wound in the urban fabric, while expanding environmental stewardship into the public realm and serving as a beacon of knowledge.

Additional Credits

  • Civil Engineer: McClelland Consulting Engineers, Inc.
  • Interior Designer: Julie Grisham Interiors
  • Landscape Architect: Landscape Architecture Inc.
  • MEP Engineer: TME Inc.
  • Structural Engineer: Kenneth Jones & Associates w/ Crafton Tull Sparks
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  • Photo Credit: © Steve Grisham; © Timothy Hursley; © Walter Lang

Arkansas Studies Institute

Jury Comments

A complex program done well-- knitting together existing spaces into beautiful, elegant interiors while presenting a strong connection between old and new. This project weaves a narrative between existing structures and the current program of Archive storage, the practice of collecting Arkansas’ history.

It is appropriately industrial in design; this project is “muscular” in both subject matter and design.

How eloquently the new finishes are incorporated… leaving certain things as they are while adding and polishing around them… almost a nod to Chipperfield…

2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards Jury

  • Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, Chair
  • Marlon Blackwell Architect
  • Fayetteville, Ark.
  • Anders Dahlgren
  • Library Planning Associates, Inc.
  • Normal, Ill. 
  • Drew Harrington
  • University of Portland, Dean of the Library
  • Portland, Ore.
  • David Moore, AIA
  • Craig Gaulden and Davis, Inc.
  • Greenville, S.C.
  • Joanna Pestka, FAIA
  • NY Public Library
  • New York City
  • Thomas Schneiter
  • Library Consulting, High-Density Storage
  • Madison, Conn.

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