Rivers of Innovation – Cincinnati Public Library Renovation

Project Narrative

The goal of the project was to define the role of third places, specifically the role of the Cincinnati Public Library within the city’s community. Through programmatic and aesthetic development, spaces are designed to support the people of Cincinnati. Third places have become increasingly important in communities as a space to learn, connect, imagine and create. The project calls for a redesign of the first and second floor of the North Building within the Cincinnati Public Library main branch. The goal is to revitalize and enliven the role of the public library and create a space that brings Cincinnati into the future.
From the beginning of Cincinnati’s history, the Ohio River was the main source of water and business. The river is a representation of the innovation and development of the city and provides inspiration to its citizens. Through the proposed design, the Cincinnati Public Library attempts to demonstrate the importance of a river and what it can do for a community. A river is a place for people to gather, collaborate, and focus.
In the exploration of the Ohio River, inspiration was taken from the ideas of refraction, flow, erosion and a focus on the biophilic theory of Mystery and Complexity. Refraction occurs when light is traveling through air and then passes and bends through water. When light hits water the result is never the same and creates a feeling of mystery and awe. The flow of rivers often determine the location of cities as well as their ability to expand, innovate and sustain progress. We are looking at rivers as a means of circulation and a way to separate programming. Erosion is the process of carving away earth from water’s natural state of flowing. The idea of erosion can emphasize the circulation of a space. The theory of Mystery and Complexity is a biophilic theory that explains humans’ inherent need to understand and to explore spaces. A design that has these qualities will cause one to want to return.
Due to the large interior space, wayfinding was important for this project. Using the essential wayfinding elements of paths, edges, nodes, districts and landmarks helped make the space more readable and approachable. For example: A strong circulation path emulating the river helps guests maneuver the space. Colors or themes help define the programs, and the main stair acts as a landmark.
In deciding the colors/themes we were deliberate to have them align with the program of the spaces. For the first floor, to describe the concept of rivers and growth, the color palette includes the cool tones of green and blues. The coworking space is intended to be a flexible space for people to work in the colors chosen to create a warm, cozy space. To describe the active and engaging nature of the maker space, warm colors were chosen. A variety of colors is meant to create an atmosphere of learning and exploration in teen/tween tween space.


Project Details

Submission Category

Interior Architecture- Large Scale (>5,000 sf)

Date of Completion

December, 2022