Laurel Branch Library

Architect: Grimm + Parker Architects

Owner: Prince George's County Memorial Library System

Location: Laurel, Maryland

Aspiring to provide an environment that promotes learning and social interaction while lifting the human spirit, the Laurel Branch Library pivots around Emancipation Park, a unique historic site with deep roots in the African-American community in Laurel, Maryland. Referencing the past through textured stone materials, the library embraces the present with dynamic lines and bold forms, standing proudly as a beacon for the community.

"It is inspiring to approach as you walk up into the library and it is awe-producing as you make your way through the inside." ~ Jury statement

The 32,000-square-foot library replaces an existing facility, which was one of Prince George’s County’s most heavily used libraries. Its architecture provides a pedestrian-friendly solution that solidifies the library’s institutional presence while improving and respecting the park. Designed to serve a patron base that is increasingly immersed in technology, the design team maximized connections between the interior space, landscape, and surrounding community to heighten sensory excitement. Patrons are provided numerous opportunities to bask in sunlight, enjoy the change of seasons, and experience color and texture.

Imbued with an attitude of flexibility and discovery for all ages, the library boasts a number of creative spaces that maintain a welcoming ambiance. The interior was designed to enhance the user experience through imaginative use of space, including a replica paleontological dig site in the floor of the children’s area and public art pieces by local artists in other spaces. The also library features ample space for community meetings, teaching, and individual study. Its layout is self-explanatory and easy to understand through the use of logical flow patterns, rather than signage.

"The library has today and tomorrow in mind with its design and flexibility and provides the modern library user with all the experiences necessary to make a great library visit." ~ Jury statement

While not pursuing LEED certification, the LEED-NC v3 system provided an overarching design framework for its sustainable features. Outside, the site is a living laboratory for stormwater management and local ecosystems. Native drought-resistant plants were planted in large sweeps on the park and library grounds for maximum visual and functional impact. Flowering cherry trees echo nearby Washington, D.C., and a stand of native oaks reference the history of the site, once known as Oak Grove.

Additional information

Cost Estimating:  Forella Group

Engineer - Civil:  Adtek Engineers

Engineer - Geotech:  Geotech Engineers

Engineer - MEP: Sidhu Associates

Engineer - Structural:  ReStl Designers

General Contractor:  Nardi Construction

Landscape Architect: Bradley Site Design


Daria Pizzetta, FAIA (Chair), H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, LLC, New York City

Sara A. Bushong, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

Patrick Deaton, AIA, NCSU Libraries, Raleigh

Terri M. Luke, Wake County Public Library, Cary, North Carolina

Christopher Noll, AIA, Noll & Tam Architects, Berkeley

Lisa Lintner Valenzuela, Johnson County Public Library, Franklin, Indiana

Image credits


Sam Kittner


Sam Kittner


Sam Kittner


Sam Kittner


Sam Kittner