Transformation and Restoration: Central Library of St. Louis Public Library
Text: Florian Maier
Architect: Cannon Design
Location: 1301 Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63103, USA
From the building’s original south entry, a granite stair leads to the reception foyer, which is connected to a central great hall. The hall is surrounded by five wings, four dedicated to public reading rooms and the fifth, the North Wing, to a multistory book depository.
The new public entry on the north side defers to Gilbert’s original façade as a canopy that arises from a pool of water and never touches the original building. The stainless steel canopy is supported by columns whose surfaces are engraved with titles from the library’s collection. This new entrance opens up the building to surrounding urban neighborhoods north of the library.
- The restored building is lovely, bright, and it maintains the Cass Gilbert glory. It is well detailed, restrained, and bold all at once.
- The decisiveness of the new elements work well with the existing ones. The new reads clearly against the old.
- The transformation of the interior stacks is fantastic; it provided the opportunity for a progressive intervention that is still sensitive to the host building. The canopy on the exterior, too, is modern yet sympathetic to the historic building. The original façade is very modest, and the renovation did not upstage that.
Architectural support: Grice Group Architects
Engineer - structural and civil, and exterior restoration: David Mason & Associates
Engineer - MEP and FP, audiovisuals, lighting design: William Tao & Associates
Consulting restoration architect: Frens and Frens
Environmental graphics and signage: Kuhlmann-Leavitt
Lighting design: Derek Porter Studio