MSR Design wins two national AIA/ALA Library Building Awards

Libraries are more than learning centers—the best libraries are enduring examples of architectural excellence. The AIA/ALA Library Building Awards program is the only one in the US that recognizes entire library structures and all aspects of their design.

Two projects designed by MSR Design are being honored with American Institute of Architects (AIA)/American Library Association (ALA) Library Building Awards: Missoula Public Library’s new Downtown Flagship Library and Louisville Free Public Library’s new Northeast Regional Library. Cosponsored by AIA and ALA’s Library Leadership and Management Association (LAMA) committee, the award honors the best in library architecture and design. Forward-thinking library design elements include larger gathering spaces to support the needs of the community and sustainable features to conserve water and energy.

Designed by MSR Design in association with A&E Design, Missoula’s new, 106,675 square-foot Downtown Flagship Library houses four other community organizations (Missoula Cable Access Television, Families First Learning Lab, SpectrUM Discovery Area, and the University of Montana Living Lab) to create a free, equitable, regional cultural hub. The entire building was envisioned as a community living room. The design focuses on improving the quality of life and equity within the community by supporting good health and well-being through interior finishes and furniture that avoid chemicals of concern on the Living Building Challenge’s Red List; improving nutrition through a teaching kitchen, a seed library, and children’s nutrition programs; fostering resilience through spaces that support skills-building, STEM-learning, artisanship, innovation, and teamwork; supporting inclusion by offering furnishings that can be adjusted to body type and configured for a variety of experiences; and connecting the community to the landscape with expansive views. The Missoula Public Library project was named the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)/Systematic Public Library of the Year in 2022.

Missoula Public Library’s director Slaven Lee states, “Missoula Public Library is thrilled to have our central library recognized by national library design experts. The project, a decade in the making, is a bold testament to Missoula’s commitment to making information, learning, and collaboration accessible—in a beautiful public space.” Slaven continues, “Our architects did a phenomenal thing: they took the very best aspects of our community and reflected them back to us in the design of this new library.”

Designed by MSR Design in partnership with JRA Architects, Louisville Free Public Library’s new Northeast Regional Library is the last of three regional libraries to be completed as part of an ambitious public library system-wide master plan. The library expands next generation services and programming to previously underserved areas of the Louisville metropolitan area. Conceived as a pavilion in a park, the building offers sweeping views of the adjacent park and historic site. It features a special technology-driven classroom, highly flexible reading room, multiple makerspaces with an audiovisual lab and a demonstration kitchen, and a college corner in the teens’ area. A column-free interior, multi-function access flooring, and rooms enclosed by movable furnishings support adaptability to meet perpetually evolving library demands and ambitions. Certified LEED-NC v.3.0 Gold, the project is designed to be net-zero energy ready through passive design strategies such as siting the building to take advantage of natural daylight. The design team preserved nearly all the mature trees on the site, and geothermal heating and cooling with below-floor distribution ensure substantial energy efficiency for seasonal fluctuations in temperature.

“Here at the library, we have recognized for a long time what an outstanding library facility the Northeast Regional Library is,” says Louisville Free Public Library’s director Lee Burchfield. He continues, “We can see it ourselves, and we hear about it from our library patrons all the time. I’m delighted to see the building and the team that created it getting the recognition they deserve.”

Libraries are more than learning centers—the best libraries are enduring examples of architectural excellence. The AIA/ALA Library Building Awards program is the only one in the US that recognizes entire library structures and all aspects of their design. MSR Design has received three other AIA/ALA Library Building Awards: for the Louisville Free Public Library South Central Regional Library in 2019, for the Tulsa City-County Library Central Library in 2018, and for the Stillwater Library in 1991.


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