ASU Hayden Library: Reinvention
of a Mid-Century Icon

May 20, 2020
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The Arizona State University Hayden Library Reinvention, located in the heart of the main campus in Tempe, AZ, opened in Spring 2020. Originally built in 1966 to serve a population of 20,000 students, Hayden Library had grown to become the anchor institution for one of the largest public universities in the country. Its system consists of nine libraries, serving more than 70,000 on-campus students and encompassing over 5 million volumes.

This extensive renovation reimagines and reinvents Hayden Library for the 21st century. The main drivers for the university were to provide variety of flexible spaces for learning, studying, collaborating, and making; enhance campus connectivity by engaging with the surrounding malls that intersect at a primary campus hub and a newly activated ground floor; and employ a sustainable approach to all aspects of design. The 252,600 GSF interior and exterior renovation transformed a place for books into a place for people, reflecting the diversity, history, sustainable vision, and scholarship of the university and greater Arizona.

Mid-Century Renovation

The original 1966 Weaver and Drover design of Hayden Library allowed for access and approach from the adjacent malls. Later additions, over several decades, removed ground-level entry to the tower. The 2020 Reinvention harkens back to the original design by celebrating the details of the past and highlighting them throughout the project. The mid-century modern shell and unique details, such as wood balustrade with stainless steel inlay on the existing terrazzo central stairs, are all maintained. The ground level is opened to allow for an approachable and welcoming experience for users, and custom profiles and angular geometry found throughout are reinterpreted and repeated in a mix of old and new details that support modern codes while maintaining the sophistication of the past era. A new interconnected vertical stair provides the network link from structured learning on the lower level to informal study and discovery of the upper levels.

21st Century Library Program

Part of a larger system with changing needs, the Hayden Library Reinvention embodies the library’s vision of a hub for inquiry, collaboration, innovation, and encounter by enriching the experience of patrons and supporting a broad range of uses. Traditionally enclosed programs break out and open into each other, blending use and ownership, and creating opportunities for cross-pollination. The design provides for a variety of flexible space types for learning, studying, collaborating, and making. The third level of the tower is dedicated to innovation, bringing together a collection of research centers and interdisciplinary learning labs that take the ASU community beyond book collections and archival materials into other regions of today’s scholarly landscape, in which new platforms for research and data facilitate new means of knowledge creation and dissemination. Collaborative lounges are dispersed throughout the floors to provide more student space and encourage quiet conversation. The fourth level reading room is designed for open reading and collections space. The perimeter is lined with modular shelving with integrated seating and display.

Campus Connections

With no clear entry, the existing tower was disconnected from the adjacent buildings and campus malls. Moreover, the subterranean entrance through the adjacent building addition created wayfinding issues. The new exterior design infills a majority of the surrounding moat on the lower level, creating a ground level plaza to reconnect the tower to campus. The 2020 Reinvention reinforces campus connections at building entries and new canopies mark ground level entries, connecting students from the campus malls to the library. The new entries improve wayfinding and extend campus green spaces and plazas into the heart of the library. The ground level plaza engages the surrounding campus malls, connects library program at ground level to adjacent buildings, and eliminates barriers to entry. Reading Rooms featuring unique, curated collections for active use by students and faculty are arranged along the long west side of the tower, showcasing the reinterpreted library program.

Retain and Renew

A design challenge for the Hayden Library Reinvention was how to reimagine the existing library in place to minimize environmental impact while giving Hayden Library the contemporary amenities it requires to support students. Reinventing the library in lieu of tearing it down allows 95% of the most carbon-intensive elements of the existing construction, the structural system and the opaque portions of the building envelope, to remain in place. Material choices throughout the project’s finish palette encourage the use of products that are regionally available with recycled content. Upgraded glazing and HVAC systems bring the best of contemporary high-performance building practices to the project and energy modeling indicates the new library will reduce energy expenses 47% compared to the existing library. Inside the building, water conservation is supported by efficient plumbing fixtures that are anticipated to decrease potable water use by over 37%. Outside the building, native plantings and a high-efficiency irrigation system reduce potable water consumption by 80%. The project is currently tracking LEED Platinum certification.

Hayden Library’s reuse retains the embodied energy and value of its structure and reveals the character of the building in a new light for a new time. Reinvention allows for a design respectful of context, history, and tradition, while showcasing new and future uses and programs, built around a mix of details that celebrate the past and project the future. By creating welcoming, equitable environments, engaging surrounding malls, and reinforcing physical and visual connections on the site and within the building, the library repositions itself to support students at the heart of campus, reconnecting itself to its place.

Renewal of Mid-Century Campus Legacies

October 11, 2018
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The post-WWII era brought a surge of construction to college campuses, fueled by the GI Bill, the Space Race, increased science research funding, and the demographic tsunami of the Baby Boomers. The building designs from that era demonstrate a range of characteristics: the textured surfaces of mid-century modern, the simplified structure of minimalism, or the stronger, more formalist voice of Brutalism. Often characterized by raw concrete construction of simple blockish forms, the buildings allowed institutions to project a forward-thinking sensibility and build significant structures economically.

The result was a sizeable and often challenging generation of campus development. Some buildings and landscapes from this era have stood the test of time in both beauty and functionality, but many have not.

Additionally, buildings and their infrastructure systems have a cycle of obsolescence, no matter the era of initial construction. They wear out over time, usually requiring reinvestment after about 30 years and certainly around 50. Even when the physical structure is sound, the activities that a building supports will change, as do safety regulations, programmatic best practices, and technological and design innovations.

Today, many universities are at a crossroads regarding what to do with these buildings. Is the wisest choice to reinvest in existing buildings and their infrastructure systems? Are there effective ways to renew or repurpose these structures? Or is the best choice to rebuild?

The first step in answering these questions is to start with an objective assessment of the building: architecture, engineering, cost, land value, campus planning, strategic initiatives, and historic preservation. Information about the building’s existing conditions can be developed in layers, increasing in detail as likely scenarios come into focus. Some key factors to consider are the integrity of the facility’s structural systems, and if its floor-to-floor heights allow for modern mechanical and electric infrastructure. (For a deeper dive on this part of the process, I recommend this recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, “How to Make Old Campus Spaces Feel New Again.”)

Once the assessment is complete, options develop: what is possible, what will result in a great building, what implementation strategy works, and how it will be financed.

While no two situations are alike, we do see consistent themes (and solutions) on how to approach challenging decisions about the use of these existing buildings in our practice. As more institutions face decisions about how to handle mid-century buildings, the following case studies provide progressive and forward-leaning strategies that make investments in current students and in future generations.
 


1. Reinventing an icon.

The Hayden Library at Arizona State University was built in 1966. While the geometric lines of its façade give the exterior an enduring aesthetic appeal, its interiors no longer support the needs of a modern library. To transform it from a place primarily for books into a place for people, the interiors needed rethinking and the way the building met the ground externally needed to change.

Previously, a depressed concrete moat surrounded the building tower, separating it from campus and putting a key entrance below grade. Partially filling the moat makes the library more accessible to pedestrians and more connected to its surroundings via a cohesive plaza and accessible entries. The substitution of glazing for granite paneling at grade creates transparency, adding daylight and visibility.

To support a modern, student-focused interior environment, 75% of the books were relocated to other Arizona State facilities. (They are still available to users via special order.) In addition to the reduced number of volumes, the relocation of mechanical systems from inside the library itself to a new annex freed up nearly 6,000 net square feet of space for new programming.

When the renovations are complete in 2020, the library will house a business incubator space, a green-screen studio, innovation labs, and large and small study spaces. The library will be an inclusive interactive hub where people from different disciplines can come together for team-based learning and innovation. From a distance, the changes at Hayden may be less apparent than some other renovations, but the building has been reinvented in a way that better serves the campus.


 

2. Incremental steps in pursuit of a bold vision.

Kent State University has a trio of 1960s Brutalist buildings – Cunningham Hall, Smith Hall, and Williams Hall – on its Science Mall which respectively housed the Biology, Physics, and Chemistry departments. All three structures underwent interventions of varying degrees to address deferred maintenance, improve accessibility, and reflect the school’s commitment to supporting new pedagogies and curricula.

Our carefully phased occupied renovations unite the three buildings as a cohesive precinct that fosters interdisciplinary interaction, in sharp contrast to the previous siloed departments. The renovations added internal and external porosity to the existing Brutalist structures, increasing natural light and users’ ability to see into classrooms and gathering spaces. Interior material choices, including railings, floor materials, signature pops of color, and hickory paneling, create a cohesive and warm environment throughout the three buildings. The consistent use of these materials throughout the renovations creates a seamless transition between old and new within each building and defines the precinct as a science hub.

In addition to reducing the disruption to class and research schedules, the phased occupied construction had a financial benefit. It allowed Kent State to spread the cost of a transformative project over multiple capital investment cycles. The phased occupied construction also caused minimal disruption of classes and prevented any delay in student progression through any required sequential programs.

The integration of old and new at the Integrated Science Building creates a unified platform for chemistry and life sciences research.

The final phase of this renovation was the construction of a new Integrated Science Building. This three-story facility connects to the existing Williams Hall structure, creating an integrated platform for chemistry and life sciences research that also draws non-science majors into an area where they will be exposed to STEM disciplines. The combination of several small, high-impact interventions, and a large addition for new programs transforms the future of the sciences at Kent State, with minimal impact to the student experience.


3. Transforming a gateway façade.

At Washington University in St. Louis, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences had vacated Bryan Hall, creating a practical opportunity to redesign the building’s interior for interdisciplinary chemistry research. It also presented a chance to boldly transform the façade of the building, turning what was a “back door” to campus into an important gateway. It was also a chance to integrate a contemporary structure into the campus’ Collegiate Gothic vernacular.

Inside the building, the central corridor was relocated to the north side of each floor to allow a large flexible layout within the labs and sweeping views from the common spaces. A communal stair connects lab levels, as does a two-level programmed bridge spanning a major campus entry.

Terra cotta fins on a glassy new façade transform Bryan Hall into a feature gateway.

On the exterior, a glass wall replaced the north façade’s existing heaviness to allow daylight into adjacent write-up spaces and common areas and to capitalize on views of the wooded neighborhood beyond. A terracotta fin screen layered over the glass creates a new façade expression. Sustainable features include passive sun-shading and zoned mechanical systems. Although the building is equipment-rich and energy-demanding, Bryan Hall is on track for LEED Gold certification.


4. Scrap the precast, save the frame.

The Zachry Engineering Center, built in 1972, was a design of its time: a concrete box with relatively few windows, sited on a then-remote edge of the Texas A&M University campus. The College of Engineering had a new vision for program delivery and wanted a dramatically changed building to support that vision. In response, the 330,000 gross square feet Zachry Center was gutted down to its (very solid) structural frame, while its mechanical, electric, and plumbing systems were all removed and replaced.

It also received a 200,000 gross square feet addition, which was possible due to the way the building was first built. The original four-story structure was designed to support two additional floors. Contemporary building codes frequently prevent the realization of such intended additions, but in this case the addition of one floor was both possible and desirable. Through extensive site design and building massing, our design team created a more complex and site-responsive building form. Besides the need to add more space, the facility lacked height relative to its neighbors. Post intervention, what is now called the Zachry Education Engineering Complex (EEC) is five stories high and more appropriately scaled to its surroundings.

To further connect the EEC to its neighbors, the design adds three new entries aligned with adjacent buildings, creating an “engineering walk” that ties back to campus and sets up sites for potential new construction. The addition extends out to address a nearby street line, establishing a more consistent campus edge. The exterior now consists of local stone, glass, and metal panels that fit much better into the context of campus than the now-gone precast.

The idea of transparency is apparent in the building’s interior organization as well. The activity of learning and discovery is visible and engaged. The spaces in this new complex include active/collaborative classrooms that allow instructors and teaching teams to reconfigure the space to best fit teaching needs and course design, and common labs with interdisciplinary themes.

The addition of a floor to Zachry Engineering Education Center made the project more appropriately scaled to its surroundings.

Now at more than 500,000 gross square feet, the EEC is the third-largest building on the Texas A&M campus (trailing only the football stadium and the library). Its transformation is a testimony to how structurally solid many Brutalist buildings still are, and how renovations can be a better solution – programmatically, financially, ecologically, and aesthetically – than demolition.


While the heyday of mid-century campus architecture has come and gone, thoughtful and creative interventions can bring these structures into a new age. As higher education seeks ways to philosophically and physically reinvent itself in the 21st century, the renovation and renewal of such buildings serve as both powerful symbols and practical investments.


These designs were completed in partnership with Payto Architects (Kent State University), Trivers (Washington University in St. Louis), and TreanorHL (Texas A&M University).