Indian Creek Library
A story of the transformative power of adaptive reuse, the Indian Creek Library reestablishes nature in the suburban setting of Olathe, Kansas. With this project, a former big-box retail structure has become a vital community hub and a community asset that is much more valuable than a typical library.
The project began in 2016 when the city launched a programming process for expanding its two branch libraries, as recommended by a broader master plan. The process delivered a comprehensive vision for both libraries, and Indian Creek Library was envisioned as a prime destination for children, teens, and families. During the process, a major flooding event wreaked serious structural damage on the library building. Instead of a setback, the city viewed the incident as an opportunity to accelerate the project through an alternate development concept and purchased a vacant grocery store to house the library.
The new library demonstrates transformation in two ways: physical and programmatic. The conversion of the former grocery store was rooted in providing daylight and a connection to nature that the previous library sorely lacked. Its facade was completely removed and replaced with a wall of glazing that is protected by a sunshade system that replicates the shade and dappled light one encounters on a walk through a park. That characteristic is repeated inside, where dappled light and sky-lit beacons offer a compelling new experience.
Indian Creek Library, through its programming, evolves the traditional library concept to meet 21st century needs. It focuses on content creation instead of consumption, and patrons are greeted with a makerspace, cafe, conference center, and a flexible workplace environment upon entry. More traditional library elements, chiefly reading spaces, can be found deeper inside.
Given the library’s evolving role in society, the design of Indian Creek Library hinges on flexibility and embracing change. It boasts a large open floor area with individual departments that can be easily reconfigured to accommodate new uses, and its entry flex zone was quickly redesigned to serve as a staging area for community holds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on future needs, the flex zone could become an exhibition, meeting, or personal reflection space, and the library’s transparent facade will allow those changes to remain on display for the community it serves.
Another primary focus for the team was embedding nature and wellness into the library’s everyday experience, beginning with the transformation of a retail environment devoid of nature into a vital community asset. The site now includes a reading park where the library’s programming mingles with native trees. The library is also adjacent to the Indian Creek and its trail system, and the long-term vision includes the library functioning as a trailhead.