Creating an architecturally distinct façade, angled panels of textured metal cladding artistically drape across curtainwall sections at the new Louisville Northeast Regional Library.
As the last of three new regional libraries strategically positioned to ensure that 90% of Derby City residents live within five miles of a full-service library, the LEED Gold-certified facility features a mirror-clad maker suite, spacious collection areas, a community lounge, private reading spaces and more.
Metal plays a leading role in the facility, designed by JRA Architects and MSR Design, and recipient of a 2023 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.
Graphite Gray Pre-Weathered Zinc from Rheinzink is embossed in different textures, clear anodized aluminum soffit cladding contrasts the darker siding and clear anodized aluminum curtain wall caps and painted structural steel canopy framing complete the metal package.
“The contrast, both in color and reflectivity, of weathered, dark gray zinc against clear anodized aluminum accentuate the building form,” explains Marty Merkel, AIA, LEED AP, associate, JRA Architects, Louisville. “Standard metal cladding panel dies were leveraged to create an extremely custom appearance at a very reasonable price.”
The zinc was fabricated into double standing seam panels, some of which were embossed by Rigidized with a special striated appearance. Rheinzink’s prePATINA zinc processing method produces the pre-weathered appearance, which will continue to patina over time in response to the local climate.
While the metal lends a striking aesthetic, it was also a practical choice for the public project.
“Metal structure and cladding were an ideal combination to minimize material weight and limit resource consumption. Utilizing standard standing seam cladding minimized cost, yet facilitated the randomized appearance by combining three conventional sizes,” says JRA Principal Colin Drake, AIA, LEED AP.
The building sits directly north of the national register-listed, historic 1867 Bellevoir home and grounds, essentially re-opening views of this forgotten community landmark.
“Minimal structure afforded uninterrupted views to the landscape when desired, and creates a delicate, welcoming appearance for park side facades,” adds Drake. “The variety of textures, colors and connection options gave the design team total flexibility to shape the building form to meet the project goals.”
Because the 24-gauge zinc cladding is embossed, this enabled the use of a thinner material, minimized oil canning and produced the unique aesthetic with subtle shade differences. YKK AP America supplied the aluminum curtainwall caps in hundreds of custom profiles.
The selection of metal also helped support a highly adaptable, column-free and daylight-filled interior.
“We embraced the charismatic potential of the steel building structure to animate both the exterior canopy spaces and interior maker spaces,” adds Merkel.
To keep costs down, the design team made sure that the column-free structural spans were within the range of standard long-span roof joists.
“Despite the fact that many of our exterior columns are sloped, they create a simple span for our joists and beams that eliminated cantilevers while also establishing an expressive visual boundary to our exterior plazas,” says Drake.
Large expanses or curtainwall with a large roof overhang were designed for the library’s northeast elevations, maximizing daylighting and views and enabling passive solar heating during the winter months. In the summer, the overhang provides shading.
Interior daylighting is enhanced by tubular daylighting devices. Electrical lighting is dimmed in response to light levels throughout the day, saving on energy costs while ensuring a bright interior.
The steel, aluminum and zinc materials all contain high recycled content. Other sustainable and occupant comfort features include a geothermal central plant, pressurized plenum, raised access floor system for occupant climate control and recycled rubber is in numerous creation spaces.
The daylight-responsive LED lighting and energy-efficient HVAC systems combine to exceed the AIA 2030 challenge with systems that perform 70% better than a typical public library.
Serving a previously underserved area of the city, the library offers community services beyond just books. This includes a children’s area, space for teenagers, public meeting rooms, computers, wireless internet access and senior citizen services. An average of 20,000 people visit the library every month.
“The Northeast Regional is a spectacular library in a beautiful, park-like setting that will inspire creativity and innovation for generations of Louisvillians,” says Library Director Lee Burchfield.