Redeveloping a Dead Space Transforms a Community


The McAllen Public Library in Texas

Redeveloping a space is more than a highly sustainable use of built environments. The transformed space can open up new opportunities and breathe new life into a building that would otherwise have a completely different purpose.

This has certainly been the case with a recent interior design refurbishment in the community of McAllen, Texas. In a move that goes against the stereotypical American ‘capitalism at all costs’ attitude, an abandoned Walmart has been transformed into a high functioning, large-scale community library that is receiving architectural acclaim and showing a distinct change in priorities.

A number of large-scale stores have been forced to foreclose in the US throughout the GFC, but instead of replacing the old super store with a replica, McAllen decided to move in a completely different direction.

Instead of aisles of consumer goods, aisles of books now run through the bright and inviting space, with oranges, greens and greys starkly contradicting the atmosphere prevalent in the stark, institutional libraries of old.

McAllen Public Library Texas

The McAllen Public Library in Texas

Designed by Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd, the building is cut into two distinct spaces, with the main library space separated by a laser-cut wood wall from a computer lab, meeting rooms and staff spaces. Boasting the title of the largest library in the USA, the floor space boasts thousands of books over its 125,000 square foot area. In traditional style, the books are separated by genre and audience. Colour blocking is further used to differentiate different functional zones.

Not only does the building now strike an aesthetically pleasing picture, it has offered to transform the social norms of a community. Instead of congregating in a shopping centre, community members can now come together in a much more relaxed and productive environment.

Perhaps the largest key to cultural change is the building’s flexible and appealing spaces, which are oriented toward teen visitors. The ‘Teens’ area is distinctly different from the traditional library set and offers a lounge area in which to socialise.

McAllen Public Library Texas

The McAllen Public Library in Texas

The building is a success in McAllen, with 23 per cent rise in new library registration. This redevelopment shows a distinct change in community priorities that is reflected in the built landscape all across the US in light of the devastating economic losses that the country continues to face.

Focus is being placed back on sustainable community living, which has been shown to have far greater long-term results both economically and socially.

 By Jane Parkins
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