IMAGINING THE FUTURE ATHENAEUM OF PHILADELPHIA
PROJECT TYPE: Open Design Competition, Individual Entry
LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA, USA
If the current trend towards instantaneous and remotely accessible digital information is any indication of the future, by the year 2050, contemporary brick-and-mortar libraries will be seen as historical anachronisms. While its physical collection will remain unrivaled, the new Athenaeum recognizes that architecture is an art of the physical and experiential world. To remain the leading architectural resource in Philadelphia, the institution must not only serve as a custodian of records, but also as an integral feature of the surrounding urban fabric. The proposed massing respects the legacy of the institution and its historic context by maintaining the height and footprint of the original brownstone structure, whilst simultaneously re-orienting the building’s formerly hermetic street level presence towards something more open and outwardly engaging. A porous pedestrian link between historic city neighborhoods is established by treating the first floor gallery, cafe, and lounge spaces, and the second floor event space, as a programmed extension of the surrounding street grid. Gently sheltered from the bustle and commotion of this new urban corridor above, the lower floors provide an ideal environment for the more inwardly focused, traditional scholarly functions of the building.