1. Lobby

2. Service desk

3. Staff

4. Teens

5. Lounge

6. Computer resources

7. Information desk

8. Computer training

9. Children

10. Meeting

11. Garden terrace

Wavy screens of rebar keep critters out of outdoor reading spaces, which are positioned for maximum viewing of the spectacular desert sunsets (opposite). Inside, a temporary wall of glowing polycarbonate panels allows daylight in the stacks area and eliminates the need for harsh overhead lighting (right).

support the overhanging roof.

Looking surprisingly delicate, strands of metal rebar stand in curtainlike waves under the roof's great overhang, defining the library's outdoor spaces without totally enclosing them. In other places, a series of openings penetrate the roof, allowing light to come through, unfiltered outside and distilled through colored and clear glass inside. Indoors, the architects echoed the rebar waves with undulating screens of metal mesh, delineating certain areas, such as a lounge and computer-resource tables.

"Libraries are not 'shush' places anymore," says Garvey. "They are destinations, places where people can get together to communicate." Richard agrees. "Libraries compete with bookstores now. We're building coffee bars into them, and teen-only sections."

While Desert Broom doesn't have a café, it does have shelves loaded with enough multiple copies of recently released DVDs to put the local Blockbuster to shame; self-checkout areas; a meeting room sectioned off with frosted glass; staff and computer training areas; a teen section with listening stations for audio CDs; and reproductions of classic Midcentury Modern furniture scattered about for those visitors who actually came for the plentiful supply of books or magazines.

Those who do come to read will do it in comfort—without a smidgen of harsh overhead lighting. Instead, skylights provide daylight, as do low windows, which keep out the harsh midday sun and allow views of the rustic landscape. Custom-made stacks have their own fluorescent lights built in. Other comforts include high-efficiency mechanical units for HVAC, enclosed in the tops of each of four colored cubes protruding from the roof. Heated or cooled air moves directly into the open space from each one of these volumes, eliminating the need for overhead ductwork. In the outside seating areas, where dramatic sunsets can be seen when the closing time permits, building relief air (which is usually thrown out the top of the units on the roof) heats and cools the space.

While the southeast wall of the building is clad in Cor-Ten steel panels patinated to a rusty brown, the southwest wall of the library—in anticipation of expansion—features a double layer of polycarbonate panels with cotton insulation stuffed in between. Daylight seeps through the translucent panels and renders the wall a glowing conclusion to the space.

"The building is like a found object in the desert," says Richard, who is also a pilot, and has surveyed the area from above. The community's response has been strong. Using cars, not planes, more than 2,000 people found the library on its opening day, and the PPL is already on to the next phase, planning more branches and renovations. "Libraries are about possibilities, and change," says Garvey. "We're keeping up." ■


Structural Steel: Maricopa Metals Curtain wall: Elwary Construction (steel wall panels); Mirror Works (glazed aluminum, polycarbonate) Plastic laminate: Nevamar Flooring: Econights; Crossville; Shaw (carpet tile); InterfaceAR

End panels: Polygal Lighting: Tech Lighting; Erco; Delta Light; SporLight; Se'Lux; Bartco; Abolight; Lithonia

For more information on this project, go to Projects at

Teaching by exampl s brickwork to imaginative new levels with the ARCHITECTURE AND ART BUILDING at Prairie View A&M in Texas

By Sarah Amelar

At first, we were afraid to ask the brick what it wanted to be," says Michael Rotondi, FAIA, of his design for the Architecture and Art Building at Texas's Prairie View A&M University. "What if it still wanted to be an arch? But then the answer came: It wanted to dance." So, Rotondi; his partner, Clark Stevens, AIA; and their firm, Roto, experimented with the material, creating a sheathing, with great rhythmic pleats and gaping flaps, that billows like a huge, windblown garment.

Brick was a given, mandated by the campus planning guidelines. But Rotondi, a seasoned educator, who had headed the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) for a decade, saw this requirement—and the entire project—as an opportunity to challenge the conventions of materials and spark the imaginations of architecture students.

In interviewing for the commission, Rotondi told Ikhlas Sabouni, Prairie View's dean of architecture, that he was ready to "download 30 years of experience as an architect and educator." He proposed not only to review the curriculum, but also teach the students, as part of the design process. With the search committee's approval, Sabouni soon signed on, dedicated, as she puts it, to finding "an architect of national renown, who'd create a laboratory for design, a beautiful structure that students could learn from."

Just as Rotondi had been eager to embrace Native American culture when he built at Sinte Gleska University, on South Dakota's Rosebud Reservation [record, November 1999, page 84], he hoped to gain an understanding of Prairie View's culture. Historically, this 130-year-old branch of Texas A&M University, sited 45 miles northwest of Houston, has had a predominantly African-American student body. In 2000, the school won a $190 million Office for Civil Rights settlement to compensate for long-term denial of adequate financial resources. The university allocated the funds for four new structures for the following disciplines: architecture (which shared a building with engineering), nursing, juvenile justice, and electrical engineering. In addition to the architecture school, with its 225 undergraduate and graduate students, Roto's $20 million, 108,000-square-

foot building would house construction-science and community-development programs, as well as the Community Urban Rural Enhancement Service and the Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture, with its focus on African-American contributions to the state.

Rotondi began interacting with the students through nonarchi-tectural, almost meditative exercises aimed, he says, at "heightening awareness, concentration, and focus," while opening windows to their subcultures. After getting his pupils to savor and describe the textures and unfolding flavors of "a fresh food item that a grandmother would prepare," he asked them to bring in a favorite piece of music. They diagrammed what they heard on 6-foot-long pages, tracing melodic lines and rhythmic structures, and relating the drawings back to the body's movement through space. "From gospel and rhythm and blues to bluegrass, all the music had roots in East or West Africa," the architect says. "So, right there, in those incremental rhythms and long melody lines, we found our building's ordering system."

Though Rotondi considered various partis, he settled on a long configuration with a central space and linear arrangement of studios—a diagram that had proved successful in SCI-Arc's latest incarnation. Prairie View initially offered him a site buried at the back of the campus, but Rotondi convinced the university president (a man committed to architecture as an educational tool) to place the building as a gateway to the school.

As realized (in conjunction with HKS), the three-story, 450-foot-long, concrete-framed structure presents its most eclectic face on its south, or entry, side. Here, a curving shell of brick wraps the cultural center, at the building's west end, while a brise-soleil of painted, perforated steel veils

Project: Architecture and Art Building, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas Architects: Roto Architects—Michael Rotondi, FAIA, Clark Stevens, princi-

pals; Tom Perkins, project architect; Jim Basset, Alyssa Holmquist, Devin McConkey, Sergio Ortiz, Otoniel Solis, Jack Nyman, John Lessl; HKS—Jess Corrigan, AIA, principal

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