Bold, Eclectic Flooring Blends Historic and Modern Aesthetics
Originally built in 1940, the Toledo Lucas County Main Library is an Art Deco masterpiece. Featuring a stunning façade, irreplaceable vitrolite glass panels, ornate original lighting fixtures and detailed historic murals, it has been enjoyed by area residents of all ages for decades.
While the building was expanded over the years, including the addition of a large atrium that houses a gallery, café and gift shop, the sprawling facility required a number of physical and technological enhancements. HBM Architects worked with INSTALL Warranty Contractor Commercial Flooring of Toledo, LLC to refresh public spaces with new flooring, while adding much needed modern technology, new learning and educational spaces and enhanced accessibility.
The City’s Architectural Icon
The Main Library in the Toledo Lucas County Public Library system is one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. Designed by architectural firm Hahn and Hayes, it originally opened its doors on September 5, 1940.
The interior of the building was modeled after the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland while the exterior was modeled on that of Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Known for its colorful vitrolite murals in the Central Court, the library also includes more than 200 works of original art by illustrators of children’s literature. Established in 2004 by Mr. Huebner and sustained by Mrs. Huebner, the collection contains popular characters like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Fancy Nancy, and authors, such as Dr. Seuss and many regional and award-winning artists. It is also a Federal Depository Library and a Patent-Trademark Depository Library.
With 270,000 members, the Main Library serves a large and diverse population. Over the years, the building has expanded to meet the needs of Toledo, including a large renovation and expansion in 2001 that saw the addition of “The Atrium.”
The Atrium acts as a connector between the historic areas and the main collection wing of the library. The light filled space, which is distinctly modern and contemporary compared to the Central Court and other Art Deco portions of the building, has become a central gathering point.
While The Atrium helped modernize the library and add much needed space, the rest of the library needed key enhancements—much needed technology, repositioning spaces and functions to make them more readily accessible, and adding new spaces that let members experience, learn and create. “When renovating a library for the 21st century, particularly a building as iconic as Toledo Main, it is important to first understand what is sacred to the library and its community in terms of both function and the physical components of the space,” wrote HBM Architects. In order to maintain the architectural integrity of the building while adding a fresh new look and feel to the space, HBM Architects turned to INSTALL Warranty Contractor Commercial Flooring of Toledo, LLC.
The installation team had worked on a variety of large-scale commercial projects and had the knowledge and experience of working in historic buildings. Together they set out on a year-long project that would completely transform the Main Library while preserving unique architectural details.
Art Deco Meets Contemporary
The main challenge facing this renovation project was creating cohesive and inspiring spaces that reflected distinct characteristics of the original historic architecture. These existing characteristics were the basis for all decisions.
The lower level entry from parking was reimagined with new lighting and back-painted glass. Neutral flooring is accented by color changing LED strips traveling from the ceiling down walls at intervals. Red and blue branding colors accent the dark grey carpet of the meeting and business incubator spaces. Carpet in technology-rich spaces evokes angular Art Deco details. Accents of cobalt, poppy and seafoam identify each space. In the main collection area, much of the existing carpeting remained. A striking pathway in rich red, gray and gold draws patrons farther into the library revealing the main collection, seating, meeting/study rooms, and gift shop. Large-format gray porcelain tile flooring was used in the cafe to compliment stone, and wood plank flooring in the gallery adds a warm accent.
The second-floor children’s area is an interactive and immersive destination. Vitrolite glass panels on the walls were already colorful so gray tones with accents of blues, greens, and oranges were used to balance the overall space.
The flooring vendors included in the renovation are American Olean, ARDEX Americas, Armstrong Flooring, Inc., Bostik, Inc., Chapco (H.B. Fuller), Daltile, Marazzi USA, Tandus Centiva, Tarkett | Johnsonite, TEC (H.B. Fuller), Crossville, Shaw and Interface. While creating a cohesive design was a challenge, the existing substrate throughout the library posed several dilemmas. “Many spaces in the library and atrium required a significant amount of floor prep,” said Mike Rajner, President and CEO, Commercial Flooring of Toledo, LLC. “The Atrium and Winter Garden areas, which utilize large format tile, were also a major concern for us,” he added. “There were no expansion points in these spaces, so we worked with the architect and contractor to identify key expansion and contraction points to prevent future flooring failure.”
Additionally, while the library was closed to the public during renovation, it remained in operation with employees working full-time, processing book and material orders for the greater library system. Floorcovering installers worked around the library’s needs to ensure that building occupants were safe during construction.
While roughly 50% of the library received new flooring in the project, many of the historic areas, offices and storage areas were left untouched. The team at Commercial Flooring of Toledo, LLC also patched the terrazzo tile in the main entrance after a security desk was repositioned to maintain visual integrity.
Defining Spaces And History
The Toledo Lucas County Main Library celebrated its grand reopening with a gala event on September 28, 2019—just one year shy of its 80th anniversary. “The space is a beautiful blend of new and old,” said Rajner. “The flooring is diverse, eclectic and bold–yet it all works together and helps define each space.”
“Each architectural decision preserves the integrity and inclusivity of Main Library,” said Jason Kucsma, Toledo Lucas County Public Library director. “Main Library has always been an absolute gem. This update honors our history while looking to the future.”