Alpolic materials clad a library exterior in dramatic form. The Wolf Creek neighborhood in a southwest suburb of Atlanta needed a central place for hanging out, enjoying the company and creative efforts of one’s neighbors, engaging in civic dialog, and accessing resources for people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests.
The Wolf Creek Library, part of a voter-approved $275-million program to enhance existing libraries and build eight new branches in Fulton County, GA, has become just that. The LEED Silver-certified, steel-frame building provides 25,000 sq. ft. of multipurpose spaces, all flowing together on a single, pedestrian-friendly level. Its dramatic exterior form and setting has come to define the neighborhood and provide a gathering point.
The building dominates the summit of a wooded ridgetop that rises above and beyond the road. The front of the building faces a golf course, while the rear overlooks a small lake in the woods. Avery Sarden, vice president and director of operations, managed the project for Leo A Daly architects, Atlanta.
He recalled the goals for transforming the prominent location. “The charge for us was to create an iconic image for the community and a destination place,” Sarden said, “something that would be recognizable and be part of the catalyst for the community’s future growth. To reinvigorate and energize the community sense.”
A building with aluminum composite material (ACM) panels for its exterior design
Approaching the building from the road, it is instantly recognizable in its wooded setting, but seemingly part of it. The imposing front façade, clad in a rainscreen of Alpolic materials from Mitsubishi Plastics Composites America Inc., Chesapeake, VA, seems to extend the ridgeline to the sky in a dramatic upward gesture from right to left.
The colors of the 4-mm fire-retardant aluminum composite material appear to shift from deep red to a coppery orange, depending on the time, the season, and the vantage point. It holds a dramatic presence on a broadly wooded landscape, but feels like it belongs there. And it invites those outside to enter and to explore.
As you proceed through the entryway in the building’s main façade, the interior space immediately opens up. The swooping roofline houses an expansive community meeting room that seats 125 people, or can be divided into smaller spaces as needed. The other end of the front-facing structure houses videoconferencing and web-based learning facilities, as well as offices for the administrative staff.
Further on is an entryway into the main lobby and the library collections, with integrated yet distinct reading areas for adults, teens, and children. A sweeping corridor to the right leads to two conference/classrooms and a music room suitable for rehearsing, composing, and performing. A café doubles as a cozy space to enjoy author talks.
The main library and reading room features an expansive curved-glass curtainwall that frames the forest and lake behind the building. The glazing brings the outside in, while, just beyond, a porch-like reading area with terraced seating allows patrons to take the library experience literally outdoors to a beautiful and peaceful natural setting.
From this perspective, the building makes a second upward gesture toward the sky, with fiber-cement panels in a bronze finish used for the main cladding. Mullions, canopies, and sunshades have an anodized-aluminum finish for a raw, metallic look that complements the building’s red-copper and bronze tones.
Tying all these elements together are walls of stacked stone joining the bold front and the more elegant and airy rear of the building, suggesting a rocky outcropping of the site’s ridgeline setting.
In this natural setting, material and color selections were crucial to achieving the right balance between blending in and attracting attention. For the front façade and entryway, the architects originally considered natural copper, but didn’t want the green patina that develops as copper ages. So they turned to other materials and found a perfect choice in the workability and finish selection available with Alpolic ACM.
Compared with sheet metal, Sarden explained, “Its performance is outstanding, frankly, when you’re talking about building skins. [It gives the architect] the ability to be creative, the ability to generate new forms, the colors. It’s very nice material.”
Opposed to copper, “Alpolic materials provided a more affordable alternative that’s also lighter, more stable, and easier to fabricate,” he added.
The finish chosen for the front facade and entryway is prismatic “magma” using Valspar’s (Salem, NH) Valflon paint, based on the durable and shade-stable Lumiflon FEVE fluoropolymer resin. This finish evoked the original copper intent, but offered a more vibrant experience.
“We wanted the shimmer, we wanted the reflectivity, we wanted the shifting colors” Sarden said. “We wanted a material that would mirror back and reflect the natural setting that was around it. Copper, with its patina, in the long view, would not have provided that for us.”
The prismatic finish does what copper never could. Sarden described the effect: “With changing daylight and seasons, the prismatic ‘magma’ finish morphs from an arresting red that boldly contrasts with the building’s natural setting to an autumnal orange that complements it. The secondary color of satin-anodized aluminum completes the connection with nature, transitioning to natural stone that seems to anchor the building to the earth.”
Bhrett Kistler, president of Kistler McDougall Corp., Woodstock, GA, the panel fabricator and installer, agreed, “By using a vibrant and appealing color palette with visually striking forms, the designers created a compelling architectural structure that squashes the notion of drab, monolithic libraries of the past. The resulting space draws people in.”