Lawrence Public Library

An award‑winning library transformation that doubles the space, halves the energy consumption, and boosts civic pride.

The original Lawrence Public Library was firmly rooted in the past as its 1974 brutalist concrete structure was unwelcoming and struggled with thermoregulation. The renovation and expansion was an opportunity to transform the library into a forward-looking, community-centered place.


Redefining the role of the community library

Our design process challenged stakeholders to redefine the library’s role for the 21st century: from book repository to a multimedia community hub. The design celebrates the library as an equitable and accessible place while creating a new model for energy-efficient design.

By wrapping the existing library in a high-performance envelope, the building footprint was expanded by 50% while cutting overall energy consumption in half. Bringing more daylight into the lobby and public spaces was critical to reducing energy consumption, and for creating a more comfortable and biophilic environment for visitors.

Energy modeling led to the design of a custom, modular, terra cotta panels and glass façade system with integrated window shades and deep overhangs to respond to the unique urban conditions and thermal needs of each face of the building.

A continuous communal reading room wraps the building on the interior, nestled between the existing structure and the new perimeter expansion. Traveling along its path, the new light-filled space puts the library’s public nature on prominent display while expanding and contracting to accommodate changing library functions.

Creating a place for all to gather

Residents were engaged throughout the design process to gather input on how the new library could best serve the community and connect with the urban context. Feedback from surveys and community meetings helped inform the amenities that were included in the expansion, from a public-access recording studio supporting Lawrence’s active music scene, to shared meeting spaces, to an after-school gaming zone for teens, and a neighborhood café.

A parking lot on the building’s south side was transformed into a vibrant new civic plaza that extends the library’s community programming outdoors. A terraced amphitheater provides a venue for year-round activities, from concerts in summer, to ice skating in winter.

Contributing to community value

On opening day, the Lawrence Public library had over 12,000 visitors. Within three months, approximately 150,000 people had visited. One year after the project’s completion, visitors had increased by 55% and the number of new library cards issued had increased by 96%. The library is bustling with vibrant energy with significant increases in program attendance and checkout materials since reopening, most notably of children’s materials as the facility has been a prime destination for young families. Besides the numbers, the library has provided a notable boost in civic pride. The Lawrence Public Library is now a community hub where people of all ages can socialize, play, create, and consume culture in many forms, housed within a future-facing, energy-efficient building.

This beautiful new space embraces a changing reality, yet undoubtedly will stand the test of time. Brad Allen Executive Director, Lawrence Public Library
Lawrence, KS
66,148 sq.ft.
Sustainable Design
The Chicago Athenaeum
American Architecture Award
Library Building Award
Library Journal
Landmark Library Award
AIA Central States
Design Excellence Citation Award
City of Lawrence, KS
Tim Griffith
Multistudio asterisk