Architectural Feature: Central & Unser ABC Library

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library (ABC Library) system welcomed its newest branch on April 18, 2015 to the city’s Westside. Located near the intersection of Central Ave. and Unser Blvd. NW, the 25,000-square-foot building brings library services to previously under-served neighborhoods.

The new library was designed to be Albuquerque’s Westside “living room” – a warm and inviting space for fellowship, learning, and social exchange. Housing 85,000 collection items, the library offers a variety of reading experiences, along with community meeting spaces, study rooms, and computer access.

Lead architect Mark Rohde of RMKM Architecture, said, “The project exemplifies an inclusive design process that enabled input from the huge spectrum of library stakeholders: Library staff, city administration, elected officials, and neighborhood representatives. Young and old participated in public workshops that defined requirements for spaces dedicated to child, teen, adult areas, and two public meeting and activity rooms that fulfill a wide variety of educational and recreational events.”

Rohde added, “Although the book remains alive and well, today’s best libraries embrace the importance of current and future technology and the changing reality of how information is accessed. The new Central and Unser Library recognizes the way patrons today learn, and as such, is designed around a fully-accessible raised floor that accommodates HVAC, power, and technology in a way that provides flexibility and adaptability to the certainty of change”.

About the new building’s design, Rohde said it is based on a contemporary interpretation of the great windowed reading hall.

  • The building’s dominant architectural volume is oriented toward views and accommodates collections, a variety of reading areas, and living room-like space dominated by a towering fireplace.
  •  The supporting functions of meeting rooms, group study, children’s library, and a special donor reading room are treated as “plug in volumes” that surround the great hall and define the building’s architectural perimeter.
  • An iconic light tower establishes a “Route 66 place maker,” while providing an effective means for mechanical fresh air intake.

The library’s main entry is flanked by native landscaping, and there is a pedestrian plaza/outdoor amphitheater on the north side that can accommodate small performance events. The site design also makes the most of the views of the Sandia Mountains.

The material palate of brick, aluminum and glass curtain walls, and white hand-toweled white cement plaster establish the sense if permanence and tradition, as well as cutting edge contemporary design.

“I believe the library’s presence and visual importance will create a true landmark in the community,” said Rohde.

“A public library is a wonderful, multifaceted space where so much happens every day,” said ABC Library Director Dean Smith. “The Westside Community and everyone working on this project is so proud to be creating such a great public library space for the citizens of Albuquerque.”

Project Name: Central and Unser Library
Construction Start Date: 2013
Construction Completion: April 2015
Architect: RMKM Architecture
Contractor: HB Construction
Address: 8081 Central NW, Albuquerque (map)
Zone: North West Mesa

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