Designed by: J. Bertram King
Dedicated: November 18th, 1978
“Designing a new library is a lot like designing a new supermarket. You need to display the merchandise attractively, sensibly and easily accessible to the customer. You also need to get enough light on the subject.” These were some of the comments by Asheville architect Bertram King when designing the Pack Memorial Library in the 1970’s. Planning for the new library started in 1966 when the library trustees put together a program for the new library. The opening took place on Nov. 20, 1978. The building cost approx. $1,741,000 to build and was paid for by Buncombe county voters approving a special bond.
Reading some of the architect’s original comments on his design you can start to understand the construction. Along with ease of function, King, was considerate to use some basic green design elements. He took advantage of the sloping site to incorporate sunken courtyards that allow for natural light into the lower levels. The 1970’s decade produced many sealed buildings that focused on using air conditioning and the latest in mechanical systems. However, as King states, “We have reverted to an older, less expensive system with the new library building. It’s called opening the window”. Between the natural ventilation and insulated glass there was an effort made to lower energy use.
When standing at the corner of the building one can appreciate how the building unfolds. It is like a stage set for browsing and reading books. The glass, angles and setbacks of this modern design allow you to see the function throughout and the relationship from inside to outside. The building has a simple elegance and is comfortable in proportion and scale. Ignoring some issues in urban context and function similar to many modern buildings of the era, the thoughtfulness behind King’s design as with many of his buildings comes through.
See Bertram King on the right to find out more about his Asheville designs.
(text by Troy Winterrowd, photos courtesy of Troy and Pack Library)