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Charleston, West Virginia

2023 AIA West Virginia | Honor Award
2023 AIA Cleveland | Honor Award

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Preservation and expansion of an historic building to rebalance the allocation of user space and improve accessibility



The current library building, while an exemplary example of classical architecture, has not been able to keep up with the evolution of library services, changes in material use, technology, and social programs. Our team worked in conjunction with a commercial real estate and development agent and the Library in identifying and evaluating available sites within the City for the location of a new Main Library facility. The initial site selection process involved analysis of 16 sites with a more detailed study of the four most feasible locations, ultimately resulting in the decision to renovate and expand their current building. The re-imagined library will allow for continual growth within its walls to support the print material while becoming the community hub for Charleston.

We collected input from the community throughout the programming and design phases. The design has been carefully conceived with consideration to blend old with new, creating an exciting cultural destination along Capitol Street, and most importantly creating a more user friendly and flexible interior library space that can adapt, change, and grow over time as library services continue to expand. One of the things increasingly important to the Library is the consideration for universal design. Providing a sensory room on the children’s level, height adjustable public computer stations, and single use restrooms creates a building that welcomes and is usable by all.

The interior layout balances the book space with the people space and includes such areas as browsable collections space; an idea lab; study rooms; meeting and gathering spaces; local history room; early childhood play, learn and grow areas; and access to technology. The idea lab is home to a new tool lending program where small hand tools are available for check out and along demonstrations on use. A cafe operated by a local vendor overlooks a newly designed plaza.

The 80,000 SF design maintains an entrance from Capitol Street but also adds a new fully ADA accessible entry from Summer Street with direct access to all floors of the library. In addition, a skywalk connects to an adjacent parking garage. Part of emphasizing this destination along Capitol Street involved the incorporation of a reflecting pool, flexible outdoor seating, and the opportunity to use the new plaza for events. It was important that we preserve the original, classical building style while making the Kanawha County Public Library a national case study in the renovation and expansion of a traditional urban library.


HBM │ Design Architect, Interior Designer
Silling Architects | Architect of Record

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