About Central Library

Central Library at dusk, Photo: Carr Cialdella Photography

Central Library at dusk
Photo: Carr Cialdella Photography

With its southwestern exposure on South Rose, Kalamazoo Public Library’s central building enjoys all the sunshine Michigan can offer. Photos of the original 1893 Romanesque building reveal wings and towers filled with windows to capture the light. Ulysses Wheaton built the impressive structure, which stood for 65 years.

History

In 1958, construction began on a new building inspired by LeCorbusier’s “Ville Savoye,” a two-story, 1930s-era building near Paris, whose second level seems to float on columns surrounding a recessed ground floor. Designed by Louis C. Kingscott, Inc., and built by the Miller-Davis Company, the combined library and museum building opened in 1959.

1998 Renovation

The recent renovation preserved the physical form of this building while sheathing its exterior in a palate of materials, including reflective glass with purple mullions, and black granite towers topped with iridescent beacons.

Inserted into the northwest corner of the older structure is a limestone-clad cylindrical form, capped with a copper-shingled dome. This rotunda vertically integrates the library’s four floors. A 23-foot diameter aperture in its center links library activities on every level.

Design

holographic collar by artist Michael Hayden defines the skylight crowning the neoclassical rotunda. The collar refracts sunlight, casting dramatic bands of color that change as the sun travels the sky and with the seasons.

A monumentally-scaled floor lamp takes the form of a sheltering canopy over the seating around the aperture. Architect David Milling and Hayden collaborated on its design, a matrix of gray aluminum blades interwoven with cobalt blue panes. Small halogen lights illuminate the reading area below and reveal glints of color in the glass above, created by holographic film.

Architecture

A balcony on the third level encourages views to the lower floors. Visitors attending the VanDeusen Room events, library trustee board meetings or computer training enjoy the vista as they traverse the balcony.

The finished lower level features the inviting Teen area, three quiet study rooms, the Law Library, the audiovisual collection, and the Friends of the Library Bookstore.

The resulting 98,000 square foot structure now provides 75% more space, enough to open the entire collection to the public with room to grow.