Glass, copper and reading in Iowa

Make the users feel like they’re reading a book in a park. That was the aim of David Chipperfield Architects, the studio commissioned to design the Des Moines Public Library, in Iowa, USA. Located at one end of a park, the library provides a link between the city centre and the surrounding landscape and has become a centrepiece for the city’s urban renewal.

Its particular shape, like an aeroplane, along with the copper mesh panels that cover the walls, give the building a very characteristic appearance. Its composite skin was one of the key elements of the library’s design, as it provides shade from the sun without hindering the views from the inside. To reinforce the idea all the bookshelves are situated so that users can continue to enjoy the views while choosing books.

Given Des Moines’ cold winters and hot summers the walls needed to be adapted to the weather conditions. The skin covering the building consists of triple-glazed panels, with copper mesh. The outermost pane is 8 mm thick and reflects the scenery while preventing the copper from rusting. The copper mesh is sealed with silicone and sandwiched between two outer panes, which keeps out the cold and prevents the walls from moving on heavy traffic days. Slight variations in the makeup of the panels provide the library with a differentiated yet uniform skin, emphasising the organic shape of the building.

The roof is also designed to blend in with the surroundings, as it is covered in plants. The library also accommodates education facilities, children’s play areas and a conference wing with a cafeteria.




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