The Blacksburg branch of the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library serves as a modern community platform and a sanctuary for public growth. Located on the former site of the Blacksburg railway depot, active in the early 1900s, the design of this space is informed by the historic significance of the building’s location. The client wanted a space that could serve the community, offer a new “teen” space, and take the idea of the modern library into the future.

RTF Educational Awards 2020
Third Award | Public Building

Project Name: THE DEPOT
Blacksburg Public Library
6 Weeks
7,200 square feet
Team Project: Claire Grable, Kylie Heald
Blacksburg, VA

The Depot | Claire - Sheet1

We began by studying the region that feeds into this public space and noted the wide age range included in this community. 41% of Blacksburg’s total population is comprised of families with kids under 18. On the other end of the spectrum, the library is an important resource and community space for retired individuals in the area. Addressing these generational differences by balancing tradition and familiarity with innovation helps make a united and comfortable space for all.

The Depot | Claire - Sheet2

Technology is rapidly evolving, causing a reactionary shift in our behavior and environment. Therefore it is so important to shape contemporary library design around this growth so that libraries can continue to provide for their communities. Since the train was once considered a monumental technological accomplishment across the globe, we decided to introduce an innovative robotic book system in this space to explore a radically new way of storing and delivering books. Glimpses of the machine’s movement are captured through windows along an expansive feature wall.

The Depot | Claire - Sheet3

The Book Track is a system that embraces technology to make the library an iconic and exciting first impression of Blacksburg, much like a depot served as the first impression of the city in the 1900s. The organized movement of this machine is immediately visible through windows along the right wall of the library’s grand West entrance. By capturing and enclosing the Book Track’s activity behind glass, duality is created between stagnancy, predictability, and tradition in parallel with activity, innovation, and movement. In addition to contributing visual excitement to space, the Book Track maximizes the library’s efficiency. An electronic arm moves along the track between two stacks of books. When the arm receives computer feedback from an operator, it quickly retrieves and delivers a specific bin to the work station. The dimensions for these bins were determined by studying book sizes and human factors including average reach length to ensure that an operator can easily sort the books.

The Depot | Claire - Sheet4

Overall, the library is meant to be a place for gathering, community, and innovation. The main objective was to find a way to incorporate the idea of a library into today’s technology-driven world, while still offering the joy and experience of picking out a book.


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