Leading architects discuss design of Main Library and Community Learning Center

February 23, 2022 | By: Communications Staff

When the St. Joe County Public Library selected Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) to develop a master plan for the new, three-acre Library Block, the library team knew that the task would be challenging, but that the internationally-recognized firm had the experience necessary to accomplish the task exceptionally well.

Library block during renovation – July 2021

Completely renovating the 90,000 square foot library facility was the wise thing to do both from a sustainability perspective as well as an economic one, so the architects completely reimagined a lively, welcoming place for the community to gather, beginning with the original facility.

Melissa DelVecchio, partner and director of research at RAMSA, developed designs to bring in natural light and take advantage of key areas that could be transformed into two-story spaces to make the spaces feel even larger.

“There was really a lot of strategic thinking about how to reorganize the space within the library,” DelVecchio said. “So that we didn’t have to change [the layout of] where the stairs and elevators were located, and yet were able to have double height spaces…in the Children’s area and at the entrance.”

While there are vast spaces, because of the design, one can never get lost. “We took time to make sure that all the circulation on every floor is a clear, cross axis,” DelVecchio said. “You can see through the building; you can see light on either side.”

Children’s Area – November 14, 2021

Community Learning Center exterior – February 2022

Designing the complete renovation of an existing facility along with designing a new, 38,000 square foot adjacent Community Learning Center, presented an opportunity to re-envision the Library and its impact on the South Bend community. “We think that the library in the 21st century really is both a traditional library, as you think about it, and an expanded community center,” said Alexander Lamis, partner at RAMSA.

Since the Community Learning Center opened in January 2022, thousands of community members have utilized spaces to meet their needs and enhance their daily lives. Hundreds of people are taking advantage of one-on-one tax assistance in the ballroom, while others are tapping into free legal guidance at the Ask a Lawyer events in January and April. Still other friends and neighbors are learning and exploring more about our own community through the Movies at Main series in the Leighton Auditorium, which brings in local, talented, documentary film directors. 

It is our hope that thousands of people will participate in our One Book, One Michiana initiative this spring, as well as our first book convention, Book Con and hundreds of other events in these new spaces.

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