BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY: RAISING AN ARCHITECTURAL ICON
Broward County Main Library is more than a building, more than an urban library, more to the South Florida region than an interesting configuration of brick and mortar. Or, with a nod to its Bauhaus lineage, local materials Florida keystone, pre-cast concrete and tropical sunlight through tinted glass.
Bringing Broward County Library into existence as a centralized library system was the culmination of a decades of herculean effort beginning in 1963 on the part of community leaders, Friends groups from local municipal libraries, the League of Women Voters, area colleges, the downtown business community, and ardent citizens. Forging a single Libraries Division from a patchwork of 14 fiercely independent municipal libraries commenced in 1974 when the Broward County Board of County Commissioners voted their approval to adopt the proposed resolution to create one library system with integrated local branches. The process of absorbing existing city libraries ultimately took 20 years, but the course was set to create a county-wide system under a flagship branch: Broward County Main Library.
By 1980, the push was on to deploy the $250 million dollar bond issue funds for library building approved by the voters two years earlier. With inflation eroding purchasing power, the County Commission was looking at the cost of erecting the Main Library rise from $20.5 to $34 million dollars. After much debate, in June of that year, an expanse of abandoned shuffle board courts in downtown Fort Lauderdale was selected as the site for Main Library, purchased at a cost of $932,212. Ultimately, building costs reached $42 million dollars.
Following an exhaustive nationwide search which included team visits to important libraries nationwide, architect Robert F. Gatje, of Marcel Breuer Associates, New York, was chosen to work in association with Jordan A. Miller, of Miller Meier Architects and Associates, Fort Lauderdale. Working collaboratively with Gatje on the award-winning design were architects Hamilton Smith and Tician Papachristou.
The eight-story precast concrete and glass structure has a distinctive exterior with stepped, landscaped terraces and ground level water features. Inside, a vast atrium soars from the second to the sixth floor, flanked by floating staircases. The innovative ground floor, noted for its landscaped reflecting pool and novel interior pedestrian walkway, boasts an expansive atrium leading to the second floor. The building was given the Award of Excellence from the American Institute of Architects and American Library Association at the Library Buildings Award Program in 1987. It is one of a few U.S. libraries listed on the website greatbuildings.com.
The collection presented here documents the construction of Broward County Main Library from a deserted lot to an architectural icon. At the time of its construction, Broward County Library staff included a photographer, Charles (Chuck) Webber Muller, Jr., who was then also the librarian in charge of Collection Management. His methodology was to photograph the construction site and the emerging building every three days from multiple vantage points throughout the four-year building period.
Hailed from the outset as an architectural gem, the exterior and key interior elements of Broward County Main Library were granted Historic Landmark designation from the City of Fort Lauderdale through the efforts of Historic Preservation Officer David Baber in January 2014. Significant interior features included in the designation are the water element and surrounding atrium, escalators, glass elevator, garden area and interior pedestrian walkway.
Located at 100 South Andrews Ave, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Broward County Main Library has been in continuous use since 1984. It was re-dedicated in December 2014, following several years of renovations to maintain building integrity, including replacement of elevators, roof, wall and ceiling tiles, and air conditioning equipment. In addition, several areas of the eight-story facility, including the computer labs, were remodeled to accommodate new technology and meet the changing needs of residents.
Architects: A joint venture of Marcel Breuer Associates Architects & Planners and Miller Meier Architects & Associates, Inc.
Construction: The George Hyman Construction Company
Interior Design: Aaron Cohen and Associates, Vern Currie Design Associates
Site: 1.78 acres bounded by South Andrews Avenue on the west. S.E. Second Street on the south, S.E. First Avenue on the east, and (with the closing of S.E. First Street) Stranahan Park on the north
Building: 256,000 gross square feet, enclosed; 222,000 net usable square feet
Occupancy: 1 million volumes, 225 staff, 2,000 users at full daily capacity
Operation: April 1984 to Present
The Broward County Libraries Division maintains special collections including but not limited to, documents, photographs, artifacts, artwork and rare books. Materials in these collections may be protected by the U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U. S. C.). The reproduction or downloading materials may be restricted by terms of purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy & publicity rights, licensing and trademarks.
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