Cleo Rogers Memorial Library / I.M. Pei, architect

From the Pei Cobb Freed & Partners website:

“Beyond the normal functional requirements of a county library, Cleo Rogers was designed to create the first civic space in downtown Columbus, a community where distinguished examples of modern architecture abound, but in isolation, unrelated to other buildings or to the city as a whole.In order to give focus to the center of town, the architect succeeded in the unprecedented proposal to close a city street.

In consequence, the library established a vital dialogue with the historic Irwin House to the east and Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church on the south. The library serves as the north wall of this new urban space, reinforcing the unity of all three buildings with complementary native brick on its walls and outdoor plaza. At one end, the library’s windows drop in scale to align with the eaves of the low-rise Irwin House while at the other, a heightened entrance and large-scale glazing complement and frame the more monumental church.

As none of the three buildings was powerful enough to dominate or control the space, a monumental Henry Moore bronze was introduced. Like the conductor of an orchestra, it organizes the different architectural voices, each from a different era, providing an essential focus for the first truly urban space in Columbus.”

The interior concrete “waffled” ceiling is both distinctive-looking and functional – the heat from the ceiling’s canister lights is recycled through an elaborate intake system and used to heat the building in the winter. Pei was interested in sustainable building practices well ahead of his time! Jim Paris, a local architect, designed the expansion, which had the approval of Mr. Pei.
Eero Saarinen was first in line to design the new library, as chosen by the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation, but Saarinen’s untimely death led to the library board choosing the rising architecture star, I.M. Pei.
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