St. Louis Front Page presents St. Louis CitySide, an overview of the City Government of Saint Louis. From time to time, we will take an indepth look at many of the projects in which the city is involved and how these projects will affect residents and visitors.
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Restoring History, the Renovation of Central Library
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Public votes Central Library As "Favorite" in Library Category
ST. LOUIS (SLFP.com), March 19, 2013 - St. Louis Public Library's recent $70 million restoration and revitalization of its downtown Central Library has won a Popular Choice Award in library category as part of the A+ Awards international awards program from Architizer, an architecture news website. The project architect for the revitalization of Cass Gilbert's original 1912 structure was Cannon Design.
After an initial review of projects from more than 100 countries by the judges, they narrowed the competition down to five finalists in each category. Architizer then opened the voting to the public which registered more than 150,000 votes. The winners in each category were named today, with Zauberschon's design of The Horse on the Ceiling in Muenster, Germany receiving The Architizer A+ Jury Award in the library category.
Re-opened in early December of last year, the St. Louis Public Library's Central Library underwent a complete restoration and renewal. Central Library spans a full city block bordered by Olive and Locust, and 13th and 14th Streets and is considered one of the nation's finest examples of Classic Revival architecture. BSI Constructors, Inc., was general contractor.
Glass block flooring design element behind the welcome desk form a backdrop for Photographer Bob Moore, slfp.com, to take a photo of proud presenters for media tour of Central Library: (L - R) Paul Shaughnessy, president of BSI Constructors, Inc.; Charles Eveker, CLR Consultants, Inc.; Waller McGuire, executive director, St. Louis Public Library; and, George Z. Nikolajecich, FAIA, design principal, Cannon Design.
Central Library Opens a New Chapter Following $70 Million Restoration
The seven-story Stack Tower has been replaced with a three-story atrium featuring a mezzanine level with new conference and computer rooms, along with high-density book storage.
Ornate red & gold molded plaster ceilings, chandeliers, marble floors, Alabaster lamps and library tables have been restored in the two stories high Great Hall/Main Reading Room.
The ceiling of the Fine Art room has being meticulously restored to its early Italian Rennaisance style adapted from the church of La Badia, built in 1285, in Florence, Italy.
Restored brace lattice doors open to the loggia, with finely-painted, vaulted ceilings featuring the history of printing.
The Teen Lounge on the second floor features computers where teens can do homework or play Xbox 360 or Wii with friends.
Jelly Babies, by artist Mauro Percchetti welcome families to an expanded Children's Room.
by Betty Moore, SLFP.com
ST. LOUIS (SLFP.com), December 5, 2012 - Downtown St. Louis has lost many notable architectural structures over the years. Fortunately, after nearly a decade of planning, designing, fundraising and construction, the century-old Central Library, designed by Cass Gilbert in 1912, has survived to open a new chapter, following a massive $70 million restoration.
One of the nation's finest examples of Classic Revival architecture will re-open to the public, Sunday, December 9, at 1 p.m. with a ceremony celebrating its centennial year. On Wednesday, December 5, Library representatives and project were on hand to share their experience working on the restoration and vision for the future of Central Library.
Waller McGuire, executive director, St. Louis Public Library, acknowledged that the project was still a work in progress as staff worked behind the scenes preparing for the reopening. "If you could imagine moving with 4 million items being carried out of the building and then 4 million items being carried back in, then you get some idea of what this project was like. Then, remember we have to find everyone of those 4 million items," remarked McGuire.
He expressed his great pleasure to see artisans and craftsmenship available in St. Louis to work on the marble, the bronze, and being able to match the early 20th century work in the restoration of the ceilings and the beau arts paintings.
"We are standing in what was once the Stack Towers of Central Library, seven-story bookcases on which were hung our famous glass floors. It was an engineering tour de force of the early nineteen hundreds and a fire and seismic nightmare by the twenty-first century," McGuire continued. Gazing out toward Locust Street, he noted that the Library now has a new entrance that is fully ADA accessible where patrons enter beneath a structural stainless steel and glass canopy built right in St. Louis.
"This project was like building a ship in a bottle, only on an extraordinary scale," stated McGuire, describing how 50-foot pieces of steel, weighing many, many tons, had to fit through openings into the one of America's classical buildings. All of that was done without chipping a piece of the original granite quarried out of Mount Waldo over one hundred years ago.
"Public libraries are one of America's great institutions. The thought of making information available for those who want to help themselves is paraphrased from Andrew Carnegie's words carved on the exterior of this building. It's a deeply American idea at the time when many nations are fighting to keep information out of the hands of their patrons. This is a shining example of that American idea," McGuire observed.
In an interview prior to the tour, George Z. Nikolajecich, FAIA, design principal, Cannon Design, said that his favorite aspect of the project was working on a building designed by Cass Gilbert. "It was intimidating and amazing as well. We understood that this building was very complex. We also discovered many little things that needed to be resolved, whether structural or technical."
When asked if it was difficult to bring new technology into a building that has been loved by St. Louisans for nearly a century, he responded with a smile and a firm 'no.' "I think that we who live in the twenty-first century should design with an eye on the contemporary expression. I think that if Cass Gilbert were alive, he would probably agree with it because he was doing at the time very much the same thing."
Nikolajecich pointed out that the north wing, which was modern to begin with, was obsolete structurally and fire-code wise. "It was a building within a building that had to go. Once we took it out, the utilitarian or contemporary space appeared. That gave us a license to insert a building within a building that is looking toward the twenty-first century," he stated.
Photographers and reporters were led on quick tours of the Grand Hall/Reading Room, loggia and Fine Art Room with the Stedman Library on the first floor; the expanded Children's Room, Youth Creative Center, St. Louis Room, the new Carnegie Meeting Room with original skylight, History, Genealogy, Research and Rare Book areas on the second floor and the new 250-seat auditorium in an underground space which once housed massive coal furnaces.
Patrons may find it helpful to take a guided tour or use a map to discover all the resources now at Central. Broadband infrastructure has been installed in concrete floor channels beneath public areas and wireless is also available throughout the building.
Library officials were eager to hear reports on the new design elements and renovations. Standing near the new welcoming desk, which features a backdrop using former glass block flooring on the wall, McGuire observed that Central Library is a book in stone because the nineteen twelve version had words and printers carved all over it. "We tried very hard to bring those words into the building for the twenty-first century as well. People will experience it and read it in different ways," stated McGuire.
What was old is now new again. When Central Library reopens to the public this Sunday, December 9, 2012 after nearly two and a half years of loving restoration, Library staff hope that patrons will come to love and appreciate a glowing grand old dame that has regained her place once again.
See archived stories:
Restoring History, the Renovation of Central Library
Massive $70 Million Restoration on Central Library Moves Forward
Central Library: 'Central to Your World' Campaign Is Key to Maintaining Vital Services to St. Louis Region
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An underground space which once housed massive coal furnaces is now a state-of-the-art, 250-seat auditorium and exhibit area.
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