We were asked to help masterplan a regional library for a heavily forested site in the town of Waxhaw. Our proposal explores the notion of the site becoming a cluster of public and private uses which focus on the participatory issues of learning, media, and sustainability.
Building a library is the best way communities can improve their citizens' access to the world of reading, computers, and ultimately to media of all varieties which, taken together, unlock the many opportunities available in the world. Despite the rise of the internet which some have cited would destroy the need for the library, library use and construction has increased substantially BECAUSE they provide badly needed access to media.
Libraries have radically changed their role in our communities in recent years. They are no longer simply the repository of books required for research. They now actively offer a variety of media which people use: books, magazines, newspapers, maps, books on tape, children's books, DVDs, and even CDs are all available for use. Moreover, libraries provide computers, allowing access to digital resources such as the internet or software to help create resumes, do taxes, photo editing, etc. which many people — particularly teens — may not have access to otherwise.
We are proposing, in conjunction with the proposed New Town Hall on North Church Street, to create a Civic Axis between these structures: a formalized one on Church street, and a parallel, informal pedestrian passage on Hicks Street. Together, these two civic buildings and the activities they sponsor will articulate a "historic" center between them, centered around the commercial activity of Main and Broome Streets ultimately helping to bracket its edges. The most memorable small towns have strong centers. We propose to place these two buildings — which typically get placed in the middle of a town — slightly to the edges of the action: to "focus" future dense, pedestrian development at the center.
The library can help sponsor civic participation by being host to a variety of activities otherwise unavailable nearby while simultaneously drawing on its proximity to Main Street to develop a reciprocal relationship with the commercial center. Additionally, surplus parking has been provided to accommodate overflow, and intense clumps of activity in town. The library will become a destination to the region, and the goal is to have the library as a starting point for civic itineraries in Waxhaw.
As daily life becomes more and more enmeshed with media, libraries are adapting a number of uses formerly accommodated in community centers or even schools. Although they still embrace silence to allow people to read and study, libraries have become gathering sites — where people can meet to discuss civic concerns — to take a class, debate an idea, or orally transmit a story. Multipurpose space should be included with a direct connection with the outdoor spaces.
The spaces surrounding the library have been explored in this proposal with the goal of offering open space amenities to the community and providing space for events that may not work elsewhere. Immediately surrounding the building, we have integrated a number of spaces which directly correspond with interior programs. We have included a space outside of the community center for informal gatherings. In addition, outdoor space is located near the children's reading area. We have also orchestrated exterior spaces to help sponsor events for the larger community. As an example, the Parking area could double as space for many community events such as a farmer's market, small fairs, etc. Additionally, the area to the south of the library will be left forested as it is now, but cleared of some of its low brush so the rest of the site effectively becomes open space with walking paths, reading and gathering areas, and exercise areas: a shady, natural space counter balancing the formal park located on Main Street to the north.
Lastly, we have taken cues from contemporary bookstores and the expanded array of activities they promote by providing more leasable space (also functionally separated from the library for operational ease) for symbiotic programs such as a cafe, a bookstore, or event space, which — in theory — the library can expand into over time.