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St. Edward’s University Munday Library

Client
St. Edward's University
Location
Austin, TX
Size
47,000 SF
Photographer
©Casey Dunn
Services
Architecture
Additional Services
Landscape Architecture
Interior Design
Status
Completed September 2013
Awards
Texas Society of Architects, TxA Design Awards

Defying predictions of its impending obsolescence, the academic library is undergoing a dramatic rebirth and reinvention. The continuing evolution of technology, the reassessment of the basic tenets underlying teaching and learning, and the ever increasing awareness of fiscal limits have driven a dramatic rethinking of the library’s role on campus. This context of change prompted Saint Edward’s University to dramatically transform its library. The Munday Library—an addition to and renovation of the campus’s existing library—is imagined as a single, central space that enhances and catalyzes interaction around technology and group learning. The new library also provides a signature academic space that embodies the values of the Congregation of the Holy Cross—intrinsic connection to the community and grounding in the natural world.

Sasaki’s pragmatic approach appropriately focuses attention and resources where they will have the most impact. Within the library, student interactions, research, and inquiry all happen within sight of one another and are supported by a technology-rich environment in a variety of study spaces. All student services are organized in the main commons and a single reference desk offers students a clear source of help with research, digital media, and reserve materials. The central location of the commons makes it a catalyst for all the programs and initiatives in the building. The commons is flanked by two classrooms, which are linked via IT infrastructure to St. Edward’s sister campuses in Angers, France and Vina del Mar, Chile. The general collections and the Writing and Media Center are on the second floor. The second floor also features a bridge that visually connects the two floors. An access flooring system delivers power anywhere it is needed now or in the future.

The proportions of the commons are reminiscent of sacred reading rooms such as Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland, and the cadence of tall, thin columns references Henri Labrouste’s Sainte-Geneviève Library. Materials and colors are in keeping with the campus vernacular as is the roof shape and brim, which are contemporary reminders of low-slung shed roofs common to ranches in central Texas. Daylight penetrates the building through large expanses of glass and skylights, which reflect, diffuse, and filter the light as it travels inside. Acoustics are moderated by an absorptive roof deck and stretched fabric panels behind a wood screen.

The Munday Library also reconnects a neglected grove of live oaks to the network of shady courtyards that dot the campus hilltop. Framed views at either end of the building emphasize these connections and establish the library as the academic heart of the university. Activity inside is highly visible upon arrival and late into the night when the library becomes a beacon glimpsed from paths in all directions. A courtyard situated at the building entrance provides shaded relief and acts as an extension of the commons with casual seating and outdoor study space.

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