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Oak Forest Library

Houston, TX


with Natalye Appel + Associates Architects and James Ray Architects 



AIA/ALA Design Award, 2013


Houston Chapter AIA, Design Honor Award, 2011


Good Brick Award from Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, 2012


HBJ Landmark Award Community Impact Award, 2012

Oak Forest Library, a modern steel and masonry structure opened in 1960, no longer met Houston Public Library standards nor the needs of the surrounding neighborhood. Nostalgia remained for the mid-century architecture but the library was undersized, inefficient and inaccessible, with severely outdated technology. Public entry on the north was overshadowed by subsequent strip center development and disconnected from the shaded lawn and walk on the west.


The library today includes a 4,500 SF addition and the completely renovated 7,500 SF original.  New adult and teen wings define a neighborhood pedestrian entry and outdoor reading room under mature oak and pine trees on the west.  Within the original volume, staff areas, conference space, restrooms and mechanical areas occupy a new service zone to the south, giving the children’s area access to natural light to the north.  The original tile mosaic and globe light canopy of the old circulation desk were restored to create a toddler-sized reading nook.  Lobby space, lit by a continuous shaded clerestory, occupies the seam between old and new and unites the two entries.


New materials, systems and details reflect the integrity of the original architecture while aiming for 21st century performance, restoring the institution to its original intent and re-connecting to its community. Building reclamation and recycling propelled the project to exceed City of Houston sustainability goals with LEED Gold Certification.

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