Designing a Modern Space for a Traditional Building

Charlie Jahnigen

One of the most rewarding aspects of space design is solving the unique challenges each project presents. Since no two projects are exactly alike, every design must deliver unique solutions that address the specific project’s parameters.

This is especially true when designing a modern space in a traditional building, as was the case when establishing the criteria design for the historic Lebanon Library, a landmark 1908 brick structure built by a donation from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

From storage space to technology center

The new Lebanon Library Technology Center will open next month in the basement of a large addition that was designed by SHP in the 1980s. The 2,550-square-foot basement space was originally envisioned as a children’s library, but has served primarily as storage room over the years. Given the current prevalence and popularity of technology- focused space in libraries and elsewhere, SHP was charged with transforming the basement into a community technology center, delivering a reimagined space with the following features:

  • A designated quiet zone. As libraries in general are becoming more collaborative community hubs, their traditional role as a quiet oasis for independent work and reflection has waned. Located away from the hustle and bustle of the main floor, the basement area was a perfect place for a designated quiet zone.
  • More computer stations. The library’s current bank of available public computers are used so frequently that patrons must first join a waiting list and agree to a limited amount of time for each use.  The new center alleviates this hassle by doubling the number of stations to increase access.
  • An enclosed multi-use conference center with mobile furniture. Since the main floor of the library is limited in both space and possible configurations, an enclosed 350-square-foot conference center with movable furniture was incorporated into the center. The library’s vision is to provide training so patrons can make the most of the technology offered at the new center—the conference area provides that dedicated space for up to 24 people while respecting the quiet zone.
  • Individual training space. The center’s main reference desk offers a lower level where library staff can hold one-on-one sessions with patrons to teach them how to access library materials on an electronic reader such as an iPad or Kindle.
  • Intimate gathering and work spaces.  The center offers the diverse, relaxed seating and work space options the main library upstairs lacks. A corner lounge area has high-back chairs to muffle noise while offering informal work and discussion space in a personal setting. In addition to building-wide Wifi, counter space and workstations are equipped with power to support patrons who use their own devices.

Embracing the future, respecting the past

By its very nature a technology center should be a contemporary space that embraces the future while encouraging its users to understand and use the space to the full extent of its resources.  The Lebanon Library Technology Center achieves this with a mix of modern design touches including metallic tones, hexagon-shaped carpet and ceiling tiles and contemporary furniture and fabrics.

Since this addition is housed in a very traditional building, it was important that the center also embraces and respects the historic aspects of this community landmark. Exterior brick was incorporated into the center’s design to acknowledge the architecture that surrounds it, and leaded glass windows similar to those upstairs were used in the addition. The result is an exciting new community resource that delivers a technology and knowledge-rich space that seamlessly blends old and new.

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