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Natural elements, community needs shape designs

JACKSON — The Capital City has its first new libraries in 20 years with the openings of the Willie Morris and R.G. Bolden/Anna Bell-Moore branches. These are beautiful facilities that fill the evolving role of libraries in the community. The team at the architectural and engineering firm of Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons (CDFL) couldn’t be prouder of their work.

With a holistic approach to design, the firm was able to touch all aspects of seeing the library projects from beginning to end. “We have all disciplines working as one team in our firm and that’s especially important with these libraries,” said Robert E. Farr, AIA, the firm’s president. “We developed spatial relationships that make them happy places. You feel good when you walk inside them.”

The group has designed about 20 libraries, watching how library science has changed through the years. They worked closely with the library staffs to design facilities to meet the needs of today’s citizens.

“Libraries are now centers of the community. They are the portal for the World Wide Web for many people who have access at public libraries,” Farr said. “We must pay careful attention to opening both electronic and hard copy information to the community. We’re proud of how these facilities meet that need.”

His team is also pleased that the libraries will serve citizens now and look to the future. With meeting space difficult to find, the libraries will also serve that need.

Located on Wiggins Road in West Jackson, the R.G. Bolden/Anna Bell-Moore Library has a meeting room for community activities along with a separate children’s area and computer stations. The CDFL team used materials similar to other buildings in the area to create a seamless look and blend the library into its surroundings. Then, they added bright colors and exposed steel around the entrance to make the building more of a focal point in the community.

The 12,000-square-foot Willie Morris Library is in a wooded area on Old Canton Road in Northeast Jackson. It reflects a more contemporary design with counteracting angles, exterior metal work and wood elements. It is also equipped with state-of-the-art internet access and a multi-purpose community room.

Entergy donated 1.75 acres for the Morris branch, and Farr says the design team maximized the location’s natural elements. “That’s a specialty of our firm for all clients,” he said. “We call it the little library in the woods. The windows open to the north but it’s shaded on the south side.”
He feels everyone should do all they can with design to find ways to use energy more efficiently. “It’s our responsibility and I believe we’re moving in that direction,” he said. “Quality construction will help the quality of life. I think we’ll see the developing of building design move in that direction.”

What some architects refer to as green architecture, Farr prefers to call efficiency architecture. “This movement will change the way architecture looks at design,” he said. “The style here tends to be more traditional. We like history. Our team is trying to blend that with meeting the challenges of contemporary needs. In a sustainable world we look to maximize every resource.”

The 48-member team at CDFL includes the disciplines of architecture; interior architecture; landscape architecture; mechanical, electrical and communication engineering; and interior design. The interior architects specialize in designing interiors, analyzing how space works and the best use of existing space. Energy engineers are a subset of the mechanical engineering group, and the communication engineers deal with how all the data systems work.

“We tie all that together. It’s a comprehensive firm,” Farr said. “We are a one-stop shop and don’t have to have consultants. We believe it’s a method to address the complexities of design and construction. In today’s environment, speed and convenience are important.”

With civic architecture such as the public libraries, one of the arts is determining how to achieve funding. The timeline starts with initiating the idea. Both facilities were under construction when Hurricane Katrina hit the area and halted progress.

“We are pleased to get them finished and open for the city,” Farr said. “They will serve the community well. Once inside, people will see that these buildings are not just here to house books but are here to serve the varied needs of Jackson citizens. It’s also a fitting tribute to have them named for Mississippi writers.”

The firm has other civic projects underway that include an engineering building at Jackson State University and housing facilities for soldiers in Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky.

The military facilities are all-green buildings that are carefully orchestrated investments for the future. “They are whole units, and we’re proud to bring that knowledge back to Mississippi,” Farr said.

He says the Jackson State project is an interesting design that uses daylight in the classroom. “I think we’ll see a lot more of that. It’s an exciting project that uses traditional design elements even though it’s contemporary in style,” he said. “It will meet the energy criteria for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and we are seeking that certification.”

In addition to Farr, other principals in the firm include David A. Lemons, AIA; Jody G. Coleman, AIA; Jesse R. Browning, PE; Robert O. Byrd, PE; Ann Somers, AIA; and Gene E. Crager, AIA.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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