During the community engagement process for the proposed relocation of the Pinney Library, attendees were clear: they wanted everyone to feel welcome in the new space.
The architects want to accommodate that request, and preliminary designs show an attempt to invite the public in with natural light and materials.
The new Pinney Library will double the space of the current branch at 204 Cottage Grove Road, the third-busiest among Madison Public Library branches. The space is meant to be warm, welcoming and promote play and early literacy to address the achievement gap.
The new branch will be housed in the larger Royster Commons development at 516 Cottage Grove Road, at the intersection with Dempsey Road. The development will also include 16,000 square feet of commercial space and 86 apartments. Ruedebusch Development & Construction is the developer of the Royster Commons project and OPN Architects is designing the library. OPN Architects is the designer behind the renovation of the building at 101 King St., now home to Lucille.
According to the blog of Ald. David Ahrens, who represents the neighborhood, the developer would be responsible for the “rough building,” and the city will take over to build the interiors and fixtures. Ahrens will introduce a resolution at the Jan. 2 City Council meeting to authorize $3.163 million from the city to buy the “gray box” for the library.
The 20,500 square-foot space will include a patio, study rooms and a small creator space. Construction will allow for an expansion in the spaces for the adult, young adult and children’s collections.
Feedback from a community engagement process showed a deep desire to build a welcoming and inclusive library that patrons of all races, ages and languages would feel comfortable visiting, said Ryan Frank, an architect at OPN.
As a result, the design uses natural materials, natural light and connection to nature and plants. Those elements “give off an immediate sense of warmth,” Frank said, and provide a way to connect with many different cultures and people. A preliminary idea, shown in the drawings, includes tree-shaped structures, which could potentially be used as some sort of play structure, Frank said. Ideally, the plans should eventually include multicultural cues and wayfinding signs so that those who don't speak English as their first language can navigate the library, he said.
Plans also include space for a PlayLab, which will hopefully incorporate elements of the educational philosophy AnjiPlay, said Tammy Pineda, youth services supervisor at Madison Public Library.
The library has used AnjiPlay in their “Wild Rumpus” program, and One City Early Learning has used AnjiPlay for over a year. Created in Anji County, China, it prompts kids to use materials — at One City Early Learning, that includes wooden blocks, short ladders and free-rolling barrels — to build their own play structures.
AnjiPlay has five principles: love, joy, engagement, reflection and risk. The basic idea is to create an environment where children can engage in “real play,” or play for its own sake, and not “false play,” or adult-directed play that is used to serve educational goals.
It appears the PlayLab will follow a similar format. It will include a “flexible space that allows children to create their own story and environment ... rather than providing a defined set of parameters to play around,” a November community update said.
Frank said that while the project is still in the early stages of designing the play lab, it will focus on promoting early literacy for ages 0 to 5. The library, architects and early childhood experts are working to refine the space and types of activities there, Pineda said.
Madison Library director Greg Mickells said earlier this year that part of the mission of the PlayLab is to address the achievement gap.
In total, the project will cost $10.2 million, and the the Madison Public Library Foundation is raising $1.5 million, of which it’s raised $1,075,000, according to the foundation website.
The project suffered setbacks while remediating the site, formerly the home of fertilizer producer Royster-Clark. Contaminated soil was removed, but inadvertently replaced with soil that was also contaminated. Construction is slated to begin in February 2019 and end in October 2019.
Take a look at preliminary designs of the project from a presentation to the Madison Public Library Board on on Dec. 7, 2017. Frank said designs should be finalized in late spring: