Varina Area Library
Associate Architect: Tappe Architects
Owner: Henrico County Public Library
Location: Henrico, Virginia
Situated on a 22-acre parcel previously occupied by a private residence, the new building bridges its rural and historic context with the contemporary ambitions of the community.
Serving an agrarian community southeast of Richmond, Va., this new branch of the Henrico County Public Library system replaces an aging facility and provides nearly eight times the space for lifetime learning, individual transformation, and community advancement.
Situated on a 22-acre parcel previously occupied by a private residence, the new building bridges its rural and historic context with the contemporary ambitions of the community. Firmly rooted in its natural environment, the library’s design was inspired by the community’s vernacular. With a series of pavilions that emerge and cascade down the landscape, the design’s simple palette and forms evoke an assemblage of tobacco barns.
Inside, the new library provides countless opportunities for patrons to engage with the collections and the staff. In the highly active space, support for collaboration is abundant, while quiet spaces that foster concentration and creativity can be found throughout. Gathering and communal hangout spaces such as the grand community room and teaching kitchen punctuate the areas designed for self-directed access to information, research, and project production.
To provide easy access for its nearly 300,000 cardholders, the library’s configuration allows for quick transactions when needed. Wide aisles and convenient shelving that tilts up to provide easier recognition of titles are supplemented by a full-service drive-up window.
The client and the design team worked hand in hand to develop an intuitive floor plan that maximizes views of the natural setting, further amplified by a back porch–style overlook in the rear of each pavilion. Following that directive allowed the team to consolidate programming and take a balanced approach to open day-lit spaces and enclosed quiet spaces, and to increase efficiency in the mechanical systems and ductwork runs.
Much of the existing landscaped areas surrounding the new building were left untouched; those that were developed were done so minimally and feature native plantings and meadow grasses. A small lawn located in front of the library further supports community functions by providing space for book sales, a farmers’ market, and concert series.