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McAllen Main Library

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    • the new main library for McAllen, Texas, is located in a converted Walmart store that had been abandoned
    • Overview

      “The McAllen Main Library represents an important shift in American cultural attitudes toward tolerating big box, suburban structures. The interior spaces have been dramatically transformed from a warehouse to a place with a sense of intimacy.”
      —AIA National Honor Awards Jury

      The primary challenge of converting an abandoned Walmart big box store into the city’s new main library was to create a highly functional, flexible facility on a single level that spans 124,500 square feet, making it the largest single-story library in the U.S. To meet this challenge, the designers had the old store interior and new mechanical systems painted white to form a neutral shell for new patron and service areas, which are designated with color. Primary program areas—including community meeting rooms, the children’s library, adult services, and the staff area—are located in quadrants of the building. This clear organization allows easy wayfinding and patron access from a central service spine, delineated by a patterned wood ceiling that runs the length of the building. A secondary spine in orange bisects the first to further distinguish the public meeting rooms from the private staff area and the children’s space from the adult services areas.

    • a laser-cut wood wall at the entry folds into a ceiling plane that runs the length of the building, forming a central service spine that guides patrons
    • the intersection of the wood ceiling plane and a secondary service spine - delineated in vibrant orange - serves as the main service point
    • the two bisecting service spines provide easy wayfinding and help to define the different program areas
    • in transforming the former Walmart interior, the designers acknowledged the need to create more intimate spaces using form, material, color, and light
    • the orange service spine separates major program areas (such as the adults' and children's collections) and connects patrons to a variety of study options
    • to provide easy wayfinding and encourage self-servicing, service desks and collection areas are designated with colorful, textural landmarks
    • the addition of super-graphic-clad ceiling pendants and lighting  and flooring choices delineate program areas within the expansive library
    • inspired by the Fibonacci Series, the layout and patterns found in the childrens area mimic growth patterns in kids
    • designed to mimic a spy cave, area 3918 is a popular teen hang-out, which is acoustically separated from the rest of the library
    • Specifications

      Location: McAllen, Texas

      Type: Adaptive reuse

      Size: 124,500 square feet

    • Awards

      AIA Honor Award for Interior Architecture.

      ALA/IIDA Library Interior Design Awards:

      Best Overall.
      Best of Category (Public Libraries Over 30,000 SF).

      AIA Minnesota Honor Award.

      IIDA Northland Chapter FAB Award.

    • Project Contact

      Jack Poling

      • Architect / Principal
      • jack@msrdesign.com
      • 612 384 7574
      • View Bio

      Leanne Larson

      • Interior Designer / Senior Associate
      • leanne@msrdesign.com
      • 651 402 2054
      • View Bio