The library forms an integral part of the new Des Moines Western Gateway Park. This area of the city has undergone extensive redevelopment and the new library and park have become a centrepiece for its urban renewal.
Located at the east end of the park, the library provides a link to downtown Des Moines. While the building responds to the adjacent city block, it also stretches out into the parkland, connecting with the surrounding landscape. This creates outside spaces of different characters and conveys to the visitor indoors a sense of sitting in the park while reading a book.
The Gateway Gallery is a flexible activity space that forms part of a public route through the building, accentuating its role as a bridge between the park and the city while creating a natural transition between the library and the park. The bookshelves are arranged in such a way that visitors are always facing towards the park, giving a sense of openness and transparency. The library also accommodates education facilities, children’s play areas and a conference wing with a cafeteria, reinforcing the public nature of the building and providing a platform for public life.
The library has a sedum roof, which improves the visual and environmental impact of the building. The two-storey concrete structure sits above an underground car park and is entirely wrapped in a composite glass-metal skin. The triple-glazed panels incorporate a sheet of expanded copper mesh between the outer panes. The threedimensional quality of the copper mesh reduces glare and solar gain, providing all the shading from the sun that is necessary and ensuring that the view from the inside into the park is maintained at all times. Slight variations in the makeup of the panels provide the library with a differentiated yet uniform skin, emphasising the organic shape of the building.
Photo credits: Christian Richters.