Connection and Retreat: Reimagining the Public Library as a Biophilic Urban Escape

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Virginia Tech


Modern changes in lifestyle have inadvertently disconnected urban inhabitants from experiences known to be good for our well-being, including spending time in nature and having a sense of community and connectedness to those around us. We spend 90% of our time indoors in limited and artificial environments, mostly in our homes or places of work. The internet and a global pandemic have advanced this disconnection to our surroundings through the rise of remote work and a slew of apps ready to deliver whatever you desire to your front door.

This thesis seeks to remedy these unintended consequences of modernity by reconnecting District of Columbia residents back to nature and to their surrounding communities through the design of a public library that incorporates nature to promote the holistic health of the community and the individual. The incorporation of nature into the built environment is proven to have physiological and psychological benefits and improve overall well-being. Neighborhood libraries have always been important institutions in our social infrastructure; functioning as places of self improvement, providing free resources, and acting as central public spaces in the communities they serve. In urban environments where public and private outdoor spaces are limited, a beneficial experience of nature can be one of the resources that public libraries provide to their communities. Through the use of natural materials, vegetation, passive ventilation, and natural light, this project utilizes biophilic design to promote wellbeing, enhanced cognition, and create a welcoming environment that draws District residents out of their homes and together to create a sense of community.

The proposed project pairs D.C. Branch Library programming with outdoor spaces, including a courtyard and a public plaza, creating a permeable indoor/outdoor social center within the dense Washington D.C. neighborhood of Adams Morgan. The neighborhood is vegetated by a field of ginkgo trees taking over 18th Street and an lush internal courtyard between the library's volumes. Community oriented spaces are located on the ground level of the site while the traditional library volume becomes an urban oasis floating over the plaza in a sea of trees.



Library, Human-Centric, Biophilia, Community, Public Architecture, Washington D.C.