Cedar Rapids Public Library

OPN Architects | Cedar Rapids, IA

When flood waters swamped Cedar Rapids' central library in the summer of 2008, it was hard for many in the community to imagine how the institution would rebound. Everything on the first floor of the 85,000-square-foot building was destroyed, including the adult and youth collections, computers and computer labs, and a state-of-the-art checkout system.

Standing in the open and spacious lobby of the new public library, located just blocks away from the original, the rebound feels complete. Designed by local firm OPN Architects, the new building is wrapped in glass, filled with elegant furnishings from companies like Herman Miller and Davis, and dotted with a range of welcoming active and quiet spaces, including a café/coffee shop, a 200-seat auditorium overlooking the city and a 24,000-square-foot green roof that is open to the public.

"He wanted this library to be more like an Apple Store and less like the Department of Motor Vehicles," OPN Principal Bradd Brown, AIA, says of Library Director Robert Pasicznyuk. In that spirit, out are the imposing book stacks, the massive circulation desk and the security systems at the doors; in are shelves capped at 69 inches tall (48 inches in the children's department) and friendly checkout kiosks scattered throughout the building. An innovative RFID-enabled conveyor system automatically sorts returned books, freeing up library staff to help patrons on the floor, while engaging tech touches such as treadmill desks and a motion-activated light display in the stairwell add to the facility's cross-generation appeal.

The OPN team also designed the public library to be a proud example of sustainable redevelopment. The new building is roughly 10,000 square feet larger than the old one, but will use only 1/3 of the energy, thanks to a geothermal heating system, an efficient building envelope and the extensive use of daylight harvesting. The project is targeting LEED Platinum certification.

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2 Cedar Rapids Public Library
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4 Farmers Fishers Bakers
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6 National Public Radio Headquarters lobby
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