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Work of the Week: Francis A. Gregory Library

David Adjaye, the subject of the Art Institute's Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye, has designed over 50 built projects on four continents (North America, Europe, Africa, Asia), including everything from private homes to community centers to furniture. He has also created a number of libraries—see the Francis A. Gregory in Washington D.C. pictured above. In these spaces, he strives to provide an alternative to the hierarchical plan of more traditional libraries and focuses on spaces for interaction among patrons of all ages, thus creating a more inclusive relationship between the building and the community.

The rich colors of the interiors (deep hues of green, yellow, and red) and the diagonal/solid void pattern of the external walls—heightened by the use inside of Douglas fir plywood and reflected in the shadows on the walls and floors—relate to what Adjaye describes as the lush, savanna-like quality of Washington’s topography. The generous employment of glass, which allows dappled light to fill the interior circulation spaces, further connects the structure to the geographical terrain.

The project is capped by a floating, pavilion-like steel roof, which controls sun exposure and visually extends the building into the landscape. The mix of materials is familiar to Adjaye’s oeuvre, but the relationship among them is shifted, and this recontextualization is a key component of the design. “Searching for patterns is like searching for the building blocks of my projects,” notes Adjaye, “But it is not about finding just any sort of pattern: it is primarily about setting up a constructive relationship between the different systems that I am considering in relation to the specific demands of the brief and the place.” 

Image Credit: Adjaye Associates. Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library, Washington, D.C., 2012. © Jeff Sauers. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates.