Docomomo DC will host a lecture by author Zachary M. Schrag at the new West End Library on April 3. Schrag will deliver a talk based loosely around his book, The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro, (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), which is the definitive accounting of the capital region mass transit system.
The venue for the lecture, the West End Library, arrives as part of a savvy, multifaceted development strategy that leveraged public-private partnerships to produce new municipal assets and affordable housing supported by luxury condominiums. With design from TEN Arquitectos and local firm WDG Architecture, the West End Library occupies a double-height space at the ground level of one of the pair of projects a block apart upon which the two firms collaborated.
The library's most striking feature is a promenade of what TEN Arquitectos principal Enrique Norten calls "column trees," which are duos and trios of angled columns that emerge from the floor and branch outward. These, Norten says, resolve the structural complexity of the condominiums above the library into bays of the parking underground. Above the library, the building pops outward in a series of staggered overhangs and setbacks that express a zoning code peculiarity allowing for four-foot cantilevers that Norten and his team have used to their utmost advantage, making each of the condos a corner unit.
Within the library itself, which benefitted from the interiors expertise of CORE architecture + design, are five quiet study rooms, 40 public computers, and a 100-person community room (which is where the lecture will be held). The branch is approximately 21,000 square feet, and also boasts an outdoor reading courtyard toward the center of the building. The library pops with color, from a bright green entry portal to a blue-and-green accented children's area and red, orange, and yellow book stacks that march in a spectral procession perpendicular to the building's long side. Lower book stacks and a technology bar anchor the teen zone within the library.
This project, known within city planning circles at West End Square 37—its sister project, Square 50, stacks affordable housing atop a squash club, which sits upon a fire station—would not have been possible without the other: The affordable component at Square 50 allowed for greater density at Square 37, which made the latter project viable from a development standpoint. From the city's perspective, it had held a fire station, a branch library, and a police precinct on these sites; the precinct was deemed redundant, but the city gains much-needed updates to its aging facilities through the development deal. At the heart of all of it is the new West End Library, which seeks to serve its community while elevating the joy of reading through warm and inviting interiors.
Come see for yourself on April 3.
Read more about Zachary Schrag's April 3 lecture.