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A Community Beacon

Library mirrors region’s traditional aesthetics

Varina Library1

When designing the Varina Area Library in Henrico, Va., the architects choose building materials that are reminiscent of the region’s agricultural structures. The new, 43,885-square-foot, two-story library blends wood and stone, as well as metal roof and wall panels from Bristol, Conn.-based Morin, a Kingspan Group company. Situated on 22.11 acres of land in the rural, eastern section of Henrico County, the library replaces a 6,000-square-foot building that served the area for more than 40 years.

BCWH Architects, Richmond, Va., designed the library with associate architect, Tappé Architects of Boston. After meeting the county’s benchmark for its area libraries, Charles W. Wray Jr., AIA, LEED AP, principal with BCWH Architects, says the focus turned to the needs of the community, which is the county’s largest geographical district, but the most sparsely populated.

Wray says the community wanted a building that had a local and familiar feel. “They wanted it to be inviting, a place where folks of various ages and socio-economic backgrounds could come together and work together.”

Additionally, Wray notes that the county leadership wanted the building to respond to the unique nature of the site, much of which was protected wetlands. “We did a lot of research about the community and the site,” he says. “We really thought the building could be a beacon, not unlike the historic taverns that used to exist up and down Route 5.”

Wray notes that the community has a wonderful farm-like feel and character, driving the decision to really tie the building to the site and the area’s agrarian heritage. “We felt that having the building program organized into a series of pavilions that reflect, or speak to, the farm structures and tobacco farms, was important,” he adds. “Farm structures have a very interesting, organic evolution, and we wanted the space between the pavilions to be in-filled with lower-scaled building elements, so the pavilion structures themselves remain very iconic, and very unique elements in the landscape,” Wray explains.

The project features approximately 32,500 square feet of Morin’s 22-gauge Galvalume SLR-16 roof panels in Silversmith PVDF, along with 7,833 square feet of Morin’s 18-gauge Galvalume F-16 metal wall panels in Silversmith. The metal wall and roof panels were installed by Richmond, Va.-based Roofing Systems of Virginia.

“The metal wall and roof panels were a logical choice,” Wray says. “As a historic building material you see in agrarian structures, we thought it was appropriate to carry that forward, and make a strong reference mentally in the form of the building and also the material cladding it.”

Opened in June 2016, the $28 million, state-of-the-art library features a drive-up service window and book return, separate teen area, children’s area, group collaboration spaces, large meeting room with updated technology, conference room, quiet reading room, study rooms and a digital media lab with 3-D printers. It also has an updated collection with more computers and devices for public use, as well as a demonstration kitchen, and parking for approximately 220 vehicles.

The project, which has achieved LEED Silver certification, is also designed for future expansion up to 60,000 square feet.