A Library Enhanced by Copper
Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, is one of the fastest growing cities in the Midwestern United States. With a population of about 200,000, the city is undergoing an enormous construction boom, especially throughout the downtown area. Earlier this year, Des Moines unveiled the new jewel of its downtown, the home of the central branch of the Des Moines public library.
Designed by famed British architect David Chipperfield, the library is notable for a number of reasons, especially the 18-foot floor-to-ceiling copper-mesh glass walls that encompass the facility. The copper window walls truly define the library. The panes are a unique sandwich of glass and copper mesh called Okalux, developed by a German company, Okalux GmbH. The copper-colored glass provides enormous aesthetic appeal and due to its high refraction, it can block up to 87 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays, abolishing the need for regular shades, while enhancing the building's energy-efficiency and reducing potential damage to the library's collection of books. Because the mesh is encased in glass, it does not get exposed to the atmosphere and will retain its original color. The library is one of the first buildings in the United States to utilize this type of application and the first to use it with copper screen.
Chipperfield's firm, David Chipperfield Associates, relied on some of their fundamental philosophies such as designing a building that is intimately connected to context and function where the best results are achieved through a synthesis of concept, beauty and functional integration. The building's shape has been described to resemble an airplane or spaceship, with multiple curves and angles. Its design provides a clear view of the encompassing park from almost any location inside the facility.
Kay Runge, director of the public library, notes, "Everyday we receive compliments from the patrons. The color of the glass is stunning and we can really appreciate its energy saving capabilities."
The copper-mesh panes went through an extraordinary global manufacturing process before arriving in Iowa. The panes were originally designed and manufactured in Germany and then sent to North Korea for additional engineering. The glass was extruded in China, anodized in Minnesota and finally assembled and installed by craftsmen at Des Moines-based Architectural Wall Systems.
Built for $32 million dollars, the library is part of a large-scale urban renewal movement in Des Moines. Previously most of the downtown area was home to rundown businesses, hotels and apartments. Over the past few years, the city has reclaimed most of the land and converted a large portion of the area into a five-block long park. Des Moines believes the library will be a catalyst for future commercial and residential growth.
The copper sandwiched in the exterior glass walls of the new library in Des Moines will retain the appeal of its original color and sheen because it is protected from the atmosphere preventing patination.
Runge concludes, "The public library is a public good for a public trust. Des Moines deserves the best there is in this wonderful capital city." Cu
Also in this Issue:
- Using Copper for What Ales You
- Copper in Art Through the Ages
- A Library Enhanced by Copper
- Architecture Defined By Copper
- Copper Reveals Age of Books, Art