Tulsa City-County Central Library
Architect: MSR Design
Associate Architect (parking structure): Crafton Tull
Owner: Tulsa City-County Library
A key piece in catalyzing the revitalization of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s struggling urban core, this project transformed a dilapidated structure and brusque civic plaza into a community jewel. Through an extensive design process that focused heavily on outreach and close collaboration with Tulsa’s leadership, it delivered a wave of public support for resurrecting a drivable, pedestrian-friendly street with increased access to the library and the civic buildings that surround it.
"This renovation is elegant and timeless; it maximizes and revitalizes the surrounding neighborhood which would inspire me to visit more often just to experience its beauty." ~ Jury statement
Within a downtown primed for reinvigoration after the oil bust of the 1980s, the central library anchors the Tulsa Civic Center Historic District, a collection of mid-century modern buildings sharing a common public plaza. The design team approached the project with the goals of delivering a solution that responds to the needs of a 21st-century library while creating a destination that actively contributes to the city’s renewal. To that end, the project activates the exterior spaces, simplifies patron entry, and dramatically increases parking availability through a parking garage with an enclosed link to the library. Despite the addition of the 88,000-square foot garage, the overall impervious surfaces on the site were reduced, alleviating stormwater runoff.
Outside, new cast stone panels, refurbished public art, and a thorough cleaning honor the library’s original 1965 design. New glass study cubes offer passersby glimpses of the activity inside, enticing them to visit. Beyond the adult stacks and destination children’s area inside, the library features a mix of spaces where up to 140 people can meet and collaborate. Maker space, presented as a recording studio and labs filled with laser engravers and 3-D printers, encourages patrons to explore new ideas through hands-on learning.
"Civic plazas have been transformed into green spaces where people want to be – what a wonderful transformation of the parking lot to a reading garden." ~ Jury statement
The plaza itself, once tired and deserted, now features pervious pavers and ample seating and vegetation. Coupled with the library’s café, outdoor spaces provide seating for more than 400 people, providing regular meeting space before library hours begin. Where parking spaces once stood, a new outdoor garden offers flexible programming space and public access to the library, further reducing the impervious footprint.