There are some interesting developments happening in Winter Park, Florida.
Established in the late 1800s as a winter haven for the wealthy of
northern states, it is now a city of about 29,000 people in the Orlando
Although it has a nice quality of life, relative
affluence, other good aspects, etc., like every city, it faces its
challenges. What makes it interesting is how the city is responding.
many years, a significant part of the city felt that their library
needed to be replaced and brought into the new century. This effort
came closer to reality with the creation of a library facility task force more than a year ago and, more recently, with three workshops in which hundreds of community residents participated.
to say, this is not how the majority of new library building projects
go about planning. It is an example of the open and collaborative
spirit of ACi Architects, the
architecture/urban design firm that the city retained, which is leading
this effort. (This is clearly not the exercise in egotism that too many
In my role as a member of the Advisory Group to the Aspen Institute’s Dialogue on Public Libraries,
I was invited to talk at one of these workshops about how the changes
in the world and libraries provided the basis for Aspen’s report and how
that report could inform their own plans for a future library.
a good library is very much a part of the fabric of its community, it
is especially interesting that the library planning effort has been
conducted in parallel with a larger “community visioning” project to provide direction for all of the city for the next 50 years.
no city will ever achieve 100% agreement on anything, it’s been
fascinating to watch these efforts develop with generally civil
discussion – and visible in real time online to those who couldn’t be
This picture is from one of the breakout groups during a workshop.
the case of the library workshops, part of the challenge is that the
best site for a new building is in a city park named for Martin Luther
King, Jr. and that there is also a need for what has been a civic center
(community meeting building). So the design needed is not just for a
While this complicates things, it also
presents an opportunity to create something new which combines a new
library building and the recreational area around it – an opportunity to
create a kind of knowledge park or knowledge experience. The library
can offer its services not only inside the building, but on it and
beyond in gazebos around the park – and a new civic forum space.
combination library/park/civic space is not common, but not rare
either. Many large libraries sit in parks, most notably the New York
Public Library in Bryant Park. But these two public amenities – the
library and the park – are not all that often integrated together.
Recently, WIRED Magazine in its design issue article, “8 Cities That Show You What the Future Will Look Like”,
featured Medellín’s Biblioteca Espana library/park that is “Combining
Libraries and Parks into Safe Spaces for All”, while serving and helping
to upgrade the impoverished neighborhood that surrounds it.
New World Symphony in Miami Beach provides another model of how a park
can be integrated with cultural events inside a building. With a large
video wall on the outside, it is a natural place for people to sit or
even picnic while listening to great music and seeing great musicians.
Sometimes the park is jam-packed with listeners.
a library in a park offers similar possibilities. Even the always
necessary garage for a library can be turned into a set of display walls
for the projection of knowledge outside of the building – and thus
upgrading, perhaps, hiding its parking function. For instance, pictures
and text from the city’s African-American history museum could be made
more widely available this way.
Although no two cities are
exactly the same, Winter Park is a good example of an historic, but
relatively small, city that is now striving to re-define itself as part
of a larger metropolitan area in a 21st century digital economy. For
that reason, I’ll be reporting back on how the residents proceed to set
an example for many other places in the USA and the rest of the world.
© 2015 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved