Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects and the Central Arkansas Library System have won their second AIA/ALA Library Building Award in four years, for the Hillary Rodham Clinton Library and Learning Center (the children’s library near War Memorial Park).
The award comes from the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association. The Arkansas Studies Institute was an earlier award winner.
The Little Rock library emphasizes hands-on activities, with a performance space, teaching kitchen, greenhouse, vegetable garden and arboretum in addition to books. From a release on the award from the architects:
CALS Director Bobby Roberts’ challenge was to create a playground without equipment, where nature and imagination combine to create grand adventures on a six-acre natural site in the heart of the capital city. A charette held with children uncovered a surprising and heartbreaking result: their top desire wasn’t for the latest video games… they were concerned about food security – they wanted to learn how to feed themselves. Children also wanted a place that was uplifting, inspirational, and full of natural light, while feeling safe and secure. They wanted a place that “lifted expectations”.
“We worked diligently to design a library that would both connect with the desires of all children and enliven an underserved neighborhood, thus drawing people in from all over Little Rock. At a cost of $40.00 per sf below the average normal new library, being recognized as one of only six top library designs in the world by American architects is a testament to the public’s trust and continued investment in one of our community’s most critical assets, the Public Library. We as the architects take great pride in contributing to that trust. It was an honor to work with such visionaries as the leadership at CALS.” according to project design principal Reese Rowland, FAIA, of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects.
A stand-alone library for children is unusual. It appears successful, with 100,000 visitors in 2014, 832 events for children and 326 group meetings. That number could be greater with more of a push from the local school district.