DALLAS – Within the itty-bitty strip mall that backs up on the not too long ago opened Vickery Park Department Library in Dallas, you may store for groceries and different sundry gadgets at Burmese, Ethiopian and Mexican markets. That’s three continents in about 45 ft.
Vickery Meadow, as that spice-scented emporium attests, has turn out to be the center of immigrant and refugee life in Dallas. It’s a dense and various neighborhood, although its structure, principally nondescript residence complexes in numerous levels of decline, doesn’t do a lot to replicate the character of the inhabitants.
That unlucky situation will get a welcome aesthetic enhance with the addition of the $6 million Vickery Park library, which transforms an empty lot into what, because the pandemic subsides, ought to turn out to be a vibrant cultural and academic hub.
“There are 56 languages spoken locally, and I can’t even title 56 languages,” says the challenge’s architect, Robert Meckfessel, founding principal of Oak Cliff-based DSGN Associates. That linguistic range is kind of actually integrated into the constructing: the phrase “welcome” is etched into the glass home windows fronting the entry in Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Chin, English, French, Nepali, Spanish, Swahili and Tigrinya.
The primary physique of the library takes the form of an ellipse, its curving types, in response to Meckfessel, responding to communal site visitors patterns throughout the positioning, which hyperlinks the converging streets of Park Lane and Ridgecrest Street. Throughout vacation occasions, the empty lot now occupied by the library had been used for the group’s widespread annual Pageant of Gentle. To keep up that custom, a big Lacebark Elm was imported from Arkansas — yet one more neighborhood immigrant — and was planted in a landscaped space in entrance of the library, to behave as a centerpiece for the occasion.
That space additionally features a kids’s play area with a climbing construction, an amenity requested by group members throughout public planning periods for the constructing. Youngsters are a precedence for the library, which is immediately throughout the road from the DISD’s Sam Tasby Center and Jack Lowe Elementary faculties.
There’s additionally extra parking than needed — 36 areas, as required by metropolis code — nevermind that it’s alongside a bus route and in a neighborhood the place not everybody drives. The panorama design is by Dallas-based Studio Exterior.
The one-story constructing’s clear traces and funky materials palette betray Meckfessel’s modernist sensibility. He’s a longtime advocate for the preservation of midcentury structure, each in Dallas and nationally. The unique conception for the constructing was very a lot in that idiom: “It began as a glass field, however we wanted extra shelf area.” Therefore the grey brick. A broad overhanging cover wraps the outside, offering shelter from the weather alongside the constructing’s edge, whereas holding the solar at bay.
The ability goals at a excessive degree of sustainability. It’s designed to be one hundred pc carbon impartial, with photo voltaic voltaic panels on the roof offering 33 p.c of its energy. A nook of the landscaped web site, alongside Park Lane, is given over to a stormwater retention pond.
In fashionable custom, the 18,000-square-foot facility is open in plan, providing librarians what Meckfessel calls “final flexibility.” Utilities are run beneath a raised ground, with a cushty, rubberized floor specified by library employees. It’s a brilliant area, lit by broad home windows that break the brick façade, and by a line of clerestory home windows above.
Three drum-shaped pods (in crimson, blue and inexperienced respectively) of various dimension float within the inside area, offering enclosed areas for courses (English as a second language is widespread) and different conferences. The biggest of the pods is subdivided into quirky wedges for small teams.
There may be intelligent element work as properly: The e-book stacks have powder-coated steel finish caps, basically dry-erase whiteboards so librarians can simply re-classify a shelf when needed. Within the massive kids’s space, there are window bins in brilliant crimson for cozy, sequestered studying.
An oblong construction composed of tilt-up concrete panels, is clipped onto the rear of the elliptical library constructing; inside it’s a 90-seat assembly room, a versatile storage space and workplace area, the latter stored deliberately small to encourage employees to stay on the library ground.
The library’s most dramatic characteristic is the uncovered metal tensile system that helps its steel roof deck. To maintain the central space of the library column-free, Meckfessel and structural engineer Tom Taylor, of Datum Engineers, created a three-dimensional truss system, with a community of metal cables traversing the width of the 80-foot span. “Tom doesn’t like doing issues the straightforward method,” says Meckfessel, of Taylor, a revered determine within the Dallas structure group.
The cables meet at suspended kingposts, clean-lined white metal cylinders that have been some extent of pleasure for Taylor.
The system was initially not meant to be uncovered, however that modified when Meckfessel noticed it being put in throughout development. “We weren’t making any effort to make it architecturally engaging, as a result of the idea was it will be coated with drywall,” Taylor says. “However I’ve an inborn opinion that for those who provide you with a very nice system to resolve structural points, than it’s mechanically architecturally pleasing.”
That’s assuredly the case right here, and it’s particularly applicable in a library, an area devoted to opening our eyes to issues we’d not ordinarily see. For that matter, giving the unseen a dignified presence appears simply the best metaphor for a library in Vickery Meadow, a group that’s usually ignored, however worthy of consideration.
Its options now embrace a effective new work of contemporary design.
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