Cedar Rapids Public Library rebuilds flood-ravaged library with SageGlass to unite indoor and outdoor spaces

In June 2008, the Cedar River crested at approximately 31 feet causing monumental damage to the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The Flood of 2008 affected more than 1,100 city blocks and destroyed the Cedar Rapids Public Library.  After the flood Cedar Rapids sought to rebuild a new world-class library with a design that embraced openness, transparency and public engagement with the indoor and outdoor spaces.OPN Architects designed the award-winning building, resulting in a signature project for the City of Cedar Rapids and a rallying place for the city’s flood recovery.Before the flood, 1,200 individuals visited the library each day, making it the most used building downtown. With an expected 35 percent increase in library use, the new design is helping to attract more than 1,600 visitors daily, providing an expanded customer base for downtown businesses.

The centerpiece of the library’s design is the 200-seat Whipple Auditorium, which features a large, multi-floor expanse of SageGlass® dynamic glazing. The 24-foot by 40-foot curtain wall of SageGlass creates a visually dramatic backdrop for the auditorium, providing critical sunlight control and unencumbered views of the outdoors.

It offers beautiful views of the newly renovated Greene Square as well as the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. The dramatic use of glass frames the changing seasons and cityscape, providing a living backdrop for the stage.

“The entire building aims to reveal inner functions to the public, offering visitors unprecedented views from inside the library to the urban and park settings beyond and connecting the library to civic art, public gathering spaces, and programmed events. SageGlass enabled us to design a space with that kind of visual wow factor,” said Matthew Stewart, architect at OPN. 

OPN Architects originally considered using two separate sun control systems for the auditorium: one to block glare and one with full blackout shades. But that approach would have been complex, inelegant and would block the outdoor/indoor views.

SageGlass, on the other hand, solved both problems of glare control and room darkening without ever losing the visual connection to the outdoors. SageGlass is electronically tintable dynamic glass that darkens or clears in response to the sun’s movements throughout the day, controlling glare, heat gain and damaging fading effects.

While SageGlass can tint automatically, the system also features manual tinting controls since the auditorium is used for theatre performances and presentations at any time of the day.

The LEED® Platinum design has received numerous awards for innovative use of building technologies and its spirit of openness and transparency, including first place in the 2014 ASHRAE Technology Award, 2014 Illuminating Engineering Society Award, and an Interior Design Award from the American Library Association and the International Interior Design Association.

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