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Feature Story - November 2008

A Library in Disguise Mixes Campsites with Books in Prescott Valley

By Michèle Van Haecke

Forget all you know about libraries. Gone are mausoleum-like monuments to silence and staid intellectual pursuit.

The design of the three-story central tower at Prescott Valley’s new library mimics a cinder cone found in a nearby extinct volcano.
The design of the three-story central tower at Prescott Valley’s new library mimics a cinder cone found in a nearby extinct volcano.
Image courtesy Richärd + Bauer

“If you’re going to create these big community gathering areas, these community living rooms, they need to be warm, inviting spaces,” says architect Jim Richard, principal and senior designer with richard + bauer, the Phoenix-based firm that designed the new Prescott Valley Public Library and Yavapai College Extension. “In order to be vital, they need to be used.”

Energy pulses through Richard’s design for the $25 million project, funded 80/20 by the town and college and rising in the civic center complex. It will include 52,000 sq ft of warm social spaces and leading-edge technological gadgetry within architecture that has already won an “On the Boards” award from the Library Administration and Management Association and International Interior Design Association.

To develop the concept, Richard and colleagues hiked Glassford Hill, a 13,000-year-old extinct volcano prominent in local landscape and history. Richard aligned the building’s prime axis with the hill and separated library from college with an outdoor promenade along the line.

Rooflines terrace upward to wrap a three-story central tower, mimicking a cinder cone.

Sheathed in perforated metal, integrated into a sustainable landscape and dramatically lit, the design delivers “wow factor,” says Kimberly Moon, the town’s capital projects coordinator. “This new building is a vibrant place for the community of Prescott Valley to gather.”


Phoenix general contractor Barton Malow welcomed the design’s eccentricities. “This is just a little bit more challenging than a building that’s a rectangular box,” says project manager Allen Sander. “It has some unique design features that interested us, and our company is trying to make a presence in the northern Arizona market.”

Sander expects to complete erection this fall and says the project’s on track for completion in May. Challenges such as the need for added quality control come with the territory, he says. Others, such as laborious assembly of the redwood ceiling, planning for technological systems when laying groundwork and puzzling out the exterior’s cement-panel sheathing, are more unusual.

The design’s asymmetrical spiral layout is divided into interactive and secluded spaces. The lower level will include Internet stations, cafe, bookstore, research areas and a teen center. The college wing includes classrooms, offices, college library and commons.

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  • The adult side of the upper level features secluded “campsites,” small meeting spaces with fireplaces. The Children’s Zone includes a program room and interactive play area. The central cone holds a roof deck, meeting room and 200-seat auditorium, where an adjustable stage converts black box theater to Town Council chambers.

    Richard’s team made sustainability a goal, incorporating local materials, daylighting and energy and water efficiency. Richard worked with local landscape architect Barnabas Kane to evoke Glassford Hill outdoors, incorporating rainwater collection, local stone, native-planted parking islands and a series of plazas cascading to the civic center hub.

    Other special touches: glass guardrails; steel-edged cedar stairs; stage curtains; fireplaces; and discs suspended from the ceiling to reflect daylight and mimic heliographs, a historic Glassford Hill communications system that sent messages using mirrors.

    “The uniqueness of the building really reflects the quality of the existing location,” Richard says. It will make it “a beacon for the community.”


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