PoP Preview – Mt. Pleasant Library Reopens Today

3160 16th Street, NW

I was lucky enough to get a tour on Monday and while finishing touches were still being completed you get a good feel of how the space (and addition) has been transformed. Have a look at a bunch of photos I took:

With details from the architect – CORE:

The DC Public Library (DCPL) awarded this $8 million project in 2008 to CORE and its New-York-based library design collaborator HMA2.

The historic building’s exterior had been renovated in the last decade so it was left largely untouched. However, the interior changed significantly so that DCPL could dedicate the entire historic building to public library programs. The main level had a two-story book stack system with very low ceilings that did not meet today’s building codes. The upper level was half-filled with staff offices. The lower level housed the mechanical systems, a low-ceilinged meeting room and book storage.

The library has now been expanded from 18,000 to 25,000 square feet, has seating for more than 200 people, and a 100-person meeting room. The interior features new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire suppression systems. Visitors also benefit from high speed Internet access, new computers, as well as physical and digital media.

The new addition includes a two-story, sky-lit entry hall, meeting room, staff offices, mechanical and electrical spaces and restrooms. The sideyard of the building – that was a driveway – is now the entry garden.

“The two-story, sky-lit entry hall is the most striking part of the new library’s design because visitors can see the connection between old and new,” said Stewart. “We want visitors to feel that they have entered a space that retains the historic, grand qualities of the existing library yet exposes parts of the building that they never were able to experience before.”

“And when visitors move from the entry hall into the existing library, we want them to feel as though they have entered a cozy space that encourages contemplation and engagement with the library services.”

Improving building circulation, access
The staircase in the existing building was not code-compliant as it was designed only to give the librarians, but not the public, access to books. An earlier renovation had added an elevator within the historic reading room that blocked three windows, and an accessibility ramp that brought people down to the unstaffed basement where they could take an elevator back up to the main floor of the library.

To remedy these issues, all of these interventions were removed, and an exit-only staircase was added in the existing building. The new entry hall contains all of the public vertical circulation: a monumental staircase in the entry hall leading to a second-floor balcony; a bridge to the existing building; and an elevator.

Outside, CORE added a gently sloping ramp through the side garden to the sky-lit entry hall. The historic children’s staircase – originally used for access to the children’s library but of late, closed to public use – is now a main way into the library’s new entry hall and a central feature of the newly-landscaped garden.

Expanding spaces for children, restoring historic details
The Mount Pleasant library historically had one of DC’s busiest children’s story times so CORE made the children’s spaces larger than most libraries’ to accommodate this popular program. The entire second floor of the existing library is now dedicated to the children’s program. The historic murals by Aurelius Battaglia will be restored to become the centerpiece of the children’s floor.

All of the perimeter wood shelving, benches and fireplaces are being restored and reinstalled in the historic part of the library. The wood-framed columns and corniced beams are being refurbished to become a major feature of the interior. Additionally, the previous circulation desk has been salvaged and pieces of it are being used in the new circulation desk.

Outside, the materials on the addition are a modern interpretation of those on the historic building. The historic building is grey-tan limestone with a red terra cotta-tiled roof. To evoke the existing limestone, modern, tan and grey terra cotta panels clad the base of the new building. Red terra cotta panels at the top of the building evoke the old red terra cotta roof. Library visitors in the entry hall find themselves between both the old and new exteriors.

Many more photos after the jump.

First floor

Second floor

Built in bench

Computers first floor

View second floor


Fireplace tiles

Part of Aurelius Battaglia mural

Stroller drop off

Second floor bridge from old building to addition

Many books also in Spanish

Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper and CORE principal architect Dale Stewart

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