Renderings and Plans for the New Cleveland Park Library Revealed

cleveland Park library

The Cleveland Park library is located at 3310 Connecticut Ave, NW. Thumbs up or down on the renderings? There’s already some pretty serious debate on the Cleveland Park listserve. Here’s the current view via google:


From the Cleveland Park Historical Society:

“The concept design presentation for the new Cleveland Park Library as presented at the Oct. 6th community meeting is now available to view below. CPHS’s Architectural Review Committee will review the plans at its November 9th meeting, which neighbors are welcome to attend. We will send out a notice of the agenda in early November.”

34 Comment

  • Sunlight is bad for books.

    Sunlight is bad for books!

    All of these libraries are being built with huge windows that are bleaching and ruining all of the materials that we buy to put into these buildings.

    Also I hope that there’s a plan to incorporate some sort of closed room for children’s programs, because adults seem to get really mad when you interrupt their internet browsing with a rousing chorus of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

    • But natural light is great for reading. Funny that.

    • How do DVD cases fare in the sun? Go to Tenley, there’s like 4 books in the entire library.

    • Place older and rare books in an area blocked from sunlight. Place tables, periodicals, kids books or books that are likely to be replaced more often near the windows. Problem solved.

      • Nevermind that there is a wide variety of films, coatings, additives and shading devices are glass today that both allow light AND restrict harmful UV rays! The future! Technology!

        • I highly doubt the architects considered those kinds of materials– they haven’t used them yet, based on my experiences with our collections. A main problem with a lot of our new buildings is that they are beautiful, sure, but not functional as libraries– with all of the glass (very few people actually read IN the library– most take things home with them, so reading by natural light isn’t so much of an issue), difficult layouts that make it hard for staff to supervise what’s happening in the reading rooms (why are the shelves blocking the view of children’s work tables?), and so much wasted space that looks sleek and clean aesthetically pleasing but isn’t functional in any way (and we are SO cramped for table space in so many of our locations). I really hope I’m proven wrong, though.

    • This branch does not have rare books or other special collections. Circulating books generally have a relatively short life span so damage from sun exposure is not as much of a concern. That said, most modern libraries, though often having lots of windows, are designed to give people the light and have the books live in the less sunlit core. Guessing that is also the case with this design.

  • Looks to be a needed update to an outdated public resource that will greatly expand access to the community and be a showcase for some green architecture. The building itself is pretty blah, but it will blend in fairly well with the site and will not adversely impact neighbors to an appreciable degree. All of which is to say that the good people of Cleveland Park will take sides and collectively flip their shit over the tiniest of details and this thing may have a chance of being built about 10 years from now 😉

  • What a terrible design for that neighborhood and location! It seems clear the team that worked on this didn’t spend time in the neighborhood or at least has no feel for its vibe or surrounding architecture. I lived a few blocks from this library for several years, and I’m horrified at the thought of this being built as it’s currently designed.

    • Couldn’t disagree more. The design may not be amazing, but thank God they didn’t feel that they had to be bound by the exact building types that are already in existence in the area. This weird conservatism DC has around design really holds the city back in terms of having differing types of buildings and uses. If you read your Jane Jacobs she writes extensively about the importance of a mixture of ages and building types being vital for cities to function well.

      • Really, how dare they consider the people the library serves. It’s all about the architect’s ego. We know what’s best for you! Prince Charles is right — people don’t want to live with these buildings.

    • The presentation is actually rather informative and does a pretty good job of demonstrating how they got to this conclusion.

    • I strongly disagree. I think they did a good job keeping within the scale of the neighborhood and drew inspiration from the context of the adjacent buildings materials. It’s a vast improvement for the library which is in dire need of a facelift.

    • You’re not horrified. You just didn’t view the slideshow. Seems they put a lot of thought into incorporating elements of the neighborhood into the building’s design.

      Net Zero Energy.

      Expanded square footage for their various programs.

      Win win win win win.

    • Seriously. They should have added a protected parking lane to match the one across the street! That would be keeping consistency with “historical Cleveland Park architecture.”

  • I think it’s hard to defend the current building, which is pretty clearly ugly and out of date, but I still have a soft spot for it. I remember visiting it from a very young age and I think it always reminded me of an earlier time in DC and in my own life. A couple other spots in the Van Ness / Cleveland park area were the same way, like the old Chevy Chase Ice Palace that was recently torn down to be new development. I’ll miss the current building.

  • The planned building looks like it wastes site and space. Too much glass–will affect utilities and condition of the books. A simple traditional design that fits with the “between the World Wars” architecture of the area would be the best fit and less likely to look dated. The c. 1960 library on the site probably looked in no time and so will this.

    The existing building is boring in appearance and more importantly poorly maintained and organized, so the site obviously could be better utilized even with the existing envelope.

  • I like the proposed design; the architects did a lot with what seems to be a difficult (?) space. I went to one of the community meetings and was dismayed by the all too familiar vocal segment of Cleveland Park that is resistant to modernity and change and seems to be stuck in some time warp. I hope they don’t hinder any part of the project as I for one am excited about a new, accessible, light filled library with some use of the outdoors!

    • Yes – the NIMBY’s of Cleveland Park are really doing their best to make CP a ghost town. They have done nothing but scare away business and prevent growth & development. It’s pretty clear the pearl-clutchers want empty storefronts, dated design and parking spaces.

  • The library has done a really amazing job with the new branches. They’re all different, all distinctive, and all fairly good looking. I wish the private developers of buildings in DC would be as thoughtful as the library has been.

  • I think whenever an architect designs for an “historic district” they need to remember that the residents fear change and would rather live with something ugly and ill-suited that is familiar than have to get used to seeing something new. And, to be fair, the “serious debate” on the listserv consisted of 4 posts, all of which said they didn’t like the design (or, to be more specific, that it belonged in Van Ness but not Cleveland Park), with the only constructive comment being that if they were going modern, there should be underground parking. The parking comment is valid, but of course would have caused its own set of traffic objections from the neighbors.

    • My understanding is that underground parking along that stretch of Connecticut Avenue is not possible due to the metro running underneath.

  • I think the new branch libraries are some of the best architectural things in DC, and I am happy that this one continues that trend. It doesn’t necessarily fit in perfectly with the neighborhood, but I think it would work, and I like the “references” in the slideshow. The current space is quaint but atrocious, especially for the amount of use it gets. I really hope the NIMBYs that are already on the listserv don’t stop this from happening. One thought though – I would really like them to put public underground parking here. Not b/c the library itself needs parking, but because it would hopefully help with the movement to close the service lane and make it into a wider sidewalk or at least mixed use space. Other than that, I love it!

  • Resident of Cleveland Park and I love the design. Really freshens up the neighborhood with an exciting design.

  • Why does there seem to be a huge parking lot out front? It’s a very walkable area and the plan should be for most everyone to arrive on foot/stroller/etc.

  • Ugh. Awful. I like the current library. Lovable and frumpy. Washington has too much of this new space-shippy architecture. Like the set of the Jetsons.

    • maxwell smart

      “new space-shippy architecture?” Wow… you must not get out much. It’s not like they commissioned Zaha to design this.

      • Oh, I get all too much. Mark my words. Washington looks like Lost in Space these days. Wait till these intergalactic ships start to weather and age.

  • maxwell smart

    The sad thing is, there is enough money and political power in this neighborhood to get this shut down. The neighborhood rallied behind saving the service lane – which historically was never meant to exist and makes that 1 block one of the least pedestrian friendly areas. Removing the service lane would have been a huge improvement for the area, the businesses, etc.

  • The library “program” for the new Cleveland Park building is well thought out, but I have to agree with another commentator who said the design looks like something intended for Van Ness. While the architects team claimed to draw inspiration from the local CP context, the building does a poor job of relating to that context. I do not suggest that a new structure slavishly ape others, but there is nothing about this rather generic design that suggests Cleveland Park. Indeed, the site is a prominent gateway location in one of DC’s older historic districts and the community should expect quality design befitting the site. It’s noteworthy that the Georgetown Library was sensitively renovated for that historic district, and the Mt. Pleasant library expansion, also in an historic district, did a good job of blending modern with an older structure. The Cleveland Park Historic District should get no less consideration, as the new library design is revised.

  • I don’t like the design at all, at least not for Cleveland Park. The architect seemed to copy the Janney school addition behind the Tenleytown library on Wisconsin Ave. Actually, the mediocre modern design is more representative of the blah Cathedral Commons town center on Wisconsin, than it is of historic Cleveland Park.

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