The Slover Library in Norfolk, Virginia. © Peter Aaron/ESTO

Applause Reading Room

Applause Reading Room The new Slover Library anchors the revitalized downtown area near Norfolk’s waterfront. Its three volumes reflect vastly different eras and styles: the circa-1900 Classical Revivalist Seaboard Building, the Art Deco Selden Arcade and a new glass-walled atrium that links the two.

It was the artful integration of these structures that challenged Newman Architects when the firm was tapped to design an updated library for the City of Norfolk. The goal was to create a home for regional artifacts and historic memorabilia as well as cutting-edge interactive technology—all in a welcoming environment where the community could enjoy them.

The finished library reflects those aims by blending old and new. Now restored, the Seaboard Building holds the artifacts, while the seven-story renovated Art Deco volume houses books and conference rooms. The glass atrium serves as the main entrance, linking the volumes via footbridges overhead. Openings in the side of the Seaboard Building create flow between spaces. “The new architecture features transparency,” says founding principal Herbert Newman, who was the project’s lead designer. “Visitors can see the library contents on entering the building.”

Newman Architects worked with New Haven-based sculptor Kent Bloomer to develop abstract aluminum designs that ornament the building. These elements were key to the concept. “They link the ornate architecture of the Seaboard Building with the abstract architecture of the new ones,” Newman explains. “They help marry the buildings.”

The 138,000-square-foot Slover Library, which won two 2015 AIA awards, is now a popular gathering place. “It promotes interchange,” says Newman, “and brings together history and technology.”

ARCHITECTURE: Newman Architects PC, New Haven, Connecticut, and Washington, DC, in association with Tymoff + Moss Architects, Norfolk, Virginia. CONTRACTOR: Archer Western, Chicago, Illinois.