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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe New Mexico Architectural Foundation held its annual membership meeting at the Central and Unser Branch library in Albuquerque. We were given an overview of the design and construction phase of the library project by one of the chief architects involved and then led on a tour of the facility by the library system director.

These are a few pictures of the award-winning library with a few notes on some of the features. Go to the NM Architectural Foundation’s web sites for more detail (see below).


New Mexico and Albuquerque are “stucco happy” in a sense because it works in this dry climate and it harks back to some traditional southwestern cultural basics. It also blends in with the desert terrain but if you want something to stand out you use a different material.  In this project the choice was brick, to provide a monumental permanence to the structure, and lots of glass to open the space and bring in natural light while allowing for sweeping views toward the Sandia and Manzano mountains. There is a little stucco — the white panels and the frames around the study room pods.

The building is located on Central Avenue…old Route 66…and Unser Boulevard next to a major public transportation hub.  There is no back side to the library due to the location and the way it is positioned. Even the loading dock is positioned in an up-front location but it isn’t readily noticed.

The entrance plaza tower is functional as an air intake for the HVAC system. The seemingly random horizontal lines on the tower structure is actually the bar code for “library”. The library has a “living room” of sorts with a fireplace and a large brick chimney on the south side of the building that serves as another vertical feature.

Stacks are kept low to allow for light penetration and to provide unhindered sight-lines for staff working at the central desk area. Library security is sometimes an issue and the openness of the design gives the impression that patrons are visible and this boosts the level and feeling of security.  The technology space under the raised floor allows for flexibility with computer wiring as well as easy access to mechanical  functions. The library has a basement in one area which houses the HVAC equipment.

All staff presence is concentrated at the main desk which allows for reduced staffing in some respect. There is no need for a circulation desk separated from an information desk or an interlibrary loan desk. Staff working at work spaces in the rear-ward section can tell what is happening at the front desk and assist if needed.

There is a separate glass-enclosed  young adult section near the entrance equipped with gaming and other space and ample electrical outlets (not pictured). The large children’s area provides special stacks with face-forward book displays, space for reading , story time and separate restrooms. The children’s activity room is a space of its own with a stage area for performances and a display of a local young artist’s work on the walls.  Durable furniture is important since the likelihood of renovation or replacement of library fixtures or furniture will be years, if not decades, into the future.


The library has earned a number of design awards. The tour for NMAF members was enjoyable and revealed a lot about the inner workings of a library and how design can aid in the efficient and safe functioning of a modern library.


New Mexico Architectural foundation:  https://newmexicoarchitecturalfoundation.org/

NMAF Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/newmexicoarchitecture/