Louisville Free Public Library Northeast Regional Public Library
Architect: MSR Design and JRA Architects
Owner: Louisville Free Public Library
Location: Louisville, Ky.
This project is the final of three regional libraries to be updated through an ambitious, decade-long master planning and revitalization effort by the Louisville Free Public Library system. Situated on a once-neglected green space associated with the historic Italianate-style Bellevoir Mansion, the new library replaces a much smaller and outdated facility and has transformed the site into a new park centered on lifelong learning.
A core goal for the new building is to honor its historically meaningful context. The team’s design for the library respects the scale of the mansion, preserves nearly all of the mature trees on the site, and sensitively integrates a series of extended walking paths for patrons, staff, and nearby businesses to utilize. The site, a convenient location for more than 120,000 residents, allows the library to offer both indoor and outdoor programming that supports learning and wellness, and the team’s design offers more program space while still maintaining material counts that adhere to community needs. With nearly 4,000 fewer gross square feet, it boasts more services than its peers in the system.
In designing the library as a pavilion, the team ensured it would provide both daily and long-term flexibility. The clear span space and raised access floor will allow for future changes to the collection, seating, and technology, and its open floor plan encourages internal boxes of space to further define its functions while promoting easy wayfinding. The library’s three makerspaces and health space form an active learning core that expands outward to covered outdoor patios and an internal community lounge. That core reads as a glass box within, and with the adjacent spaces can accommodate large community-focused events.
Eschewing current trends, the library’s collection is organized through slightly taller shelving that creates individual rooms in the adult, juvenile, and children’s areas. The collection sits four feet lower than the surrounding community program spaces to provide unobstructed visual connections to the surrounding park from the entry and community rooms. A gently sloping “river” of easily browsed new materials solidifies the connection between community space and the collection, an approach that supports material density while still maintaining generous views.
By beginning the process with daylight and energy modeling, the team shaped a fully daylit interior experience. Its column-free interior and climate-responsive lighting empower the library to react to short-term weather variations and seasonal changes while also positioning the library for future changes. Through walking, connections with nature, and opportunities for discovery, the library encourages patrons to engage with its sustainable features through a wide range of learning styles.