The Wolf Creek neighborhood in the southwest suburb of Atlanta has been undergoing a resurgence in recent years. Another piece to the area's comeback was added with the opening of the Wolf Creek Library in September 2014. Designed by Leo A. Daly, the building's exterior is clad with ALPOLIC®/fr 4mm fire-retardant aluminum composite material from ALPOLIC® Materials | Mitsubishi Plastics Composites America.
Wolf Creek is a quiet community of cul-de-sacs surrounded by lakes, trees, creeks and a beautiful golf course with bordering wetlands that attract a variety of watchable wildlife. It’s a great community for those wishing to get away from it all. What was lacking though was something to bring people together. There’s the Wolf Creek Amphitheater, but that draws crowds from a much larger area and focuses attention toward the music on stage – not on shared spaces and activities. Wolf Creek needed a central place for hanging out, enjoying the company and creative efforts of one’s neighbors, engaging in civic dialog, and accessing resources for people of all ages, backgrounds and interests to grow and learn together. In other words, it needed a living room. The Wolf Creek Branch of the Fulton County Library is just that.
An Iconic Image for the Community
The design and construction of the Wolf Creek Library followed voter approval of a $275 million bond measure to enhance existing libraries and build eight new branches throughout Atlanta and Fulton County, Georgia. Centrally located at 3100 Enon Road, this LEED Silver-certified, steel-frame building provides 25,000 square feet of multipurpose spaces, all flowing together on a single, pedestrian-friendly level. Its dramatic exterior form and setting has come to define the neighborhood.
The building dominates the summit of a wooded ridgetop that rises above and beyond the road. The front of the building faces the golf course, while the rear overlooks a small lake in the woods. Avery Sarden, vice president and director of operations, managed the project for Leo A Daly architects. He recalls the goals for transforming this prominent location.
“The charge for us was to create an iconic image for the community and a destination place,” Sarden says, “something that would be recognizable and be part of the catalyst for the community’s future growth. To reinvigorate and energize the community sense.”
A Dramatic Gesture, an Invitation to Explore
As you approach the building from the road, it’s instantly recognizable in its wooded setting, but seemingly part of it. As you turn up the ridge toward the entryway, the imposing front façade – clad in a rainscreen of ALPOLIC® materials – seems to extend the ridgeline to the sky in a dramatic upward gesture from right to left. The colors seem to shift from deep red to a coppery orange depending on the time, the season, and even where you’re standing.
It holds a dramatic presence on a broadly wooded landscape, but feels like it belongs there. And it invites you to explore.
As you proceed through the entryway in the building’s main façade, the interior space immediately opens up. The swooping roofline houses an expansive community meeting room that seats 125 people, or can be divided into smaller spaces as needed. The other end of the front-facing structure houses videoconferencing and web-based learning facilities as well as offices for the administrative staff.
Further on is an entryway into the main lobby and the library collections, with integrated yet distinct reading areas for adults, teens and children. A sweeping corridor to the right leads to two conference/classrooms and a music room suitable for rehearsing, composing and performing. There’s also a café that doubles as a comfortable space to enjoy author talks.
The main library and reading room features an expansive, curved glass curtainwall that frames the forest and lake behind the building. The glazing brings the outside in, while, just beyond, a porch-like reading area with terraced seating allows patrons to take the library experience literally outdoors to a beautiful and peaceful natural setting.
From this perspective, the building makes a second upward gesture toward the sky, with fiber cement panels in a bronze finish used for the main cladding. Mullions, canopies and sunshades have an anodized aluminum finish for a raw metallic look that complements the building’s red-copper and bronze tones. Tying all these elements together are walls of stacked stone joining the bold front and the more elegant and airy rear of the building, suggesting a rocky outcropping of the site’s ridgeline setting.
The Ability to Be Creative
In this natural setting, material and color selections were crucial to achieving the right balance between attracting attention and blending in. For the front façade and entryway, the architects originally considered natural copper – but they didn’t want the green patina that develops as copper ages. So they turned to other materials, and found a perfect choice in the exceptional workability and finish selection available with ALPOLIC® ACM.
Compared to sheet metal, Sarden explains, “Its performance is outstanding, frankly, when you’re talking about building skins. The ability to be creative, the ability to generate new forms, the colors. It’s very nice material.” Compared to copper, “ALPOLIC® materials provided a more affordable alternative that’s also lighter, more stable and easier to fabricate.
The finish chosen for the iconic front facade and entryway was a prismatic “magma” using Valspar’s Valflon® paint, based on the incredibly durable and shade-stable Lumiflon® FEVE fluoropolymer resin. This finish evokes the original copper intent, but offers a more vibrant experience. “We wanted the shimmer, we wanted the reflectivity, we wanted the shifting colors” Sarden says. “We wanted a material that would mirror back and reflect the natural setting that was around it. Copper has its patina, and in the long view would not have provided that for us.”
The prismatic finish, by contrast, does what copper never could. Sarden describes the effect: “With changing daylight and seasons, the prismatic ‘magma’ finish morphs from an arresting red that boldly contrasts with the building's natural setting to an autumnal orange that complements it. The secondary color of satin-anodized aluminum completes the connection with nature, transitioning to natural stone that seems to anchor the building to the earth.”
Bhrett Kistler, president of Kistler McDougall Corp., the panel fabricator and installer, agrees, “By using a vibrant and appealing color palette with visually striking forms, the designers created a compelling architectural structure that squashes the notion of drab, monolithic libraries of the past. The resulting space draws people in.”
The Right Product for the Application
Material and finish choices matter. ALPOLIC® materials in prismatic and anodized finishes helped Leo A Daly create an iconic look and inviting feel for the community’s living room. “As we worked through the pricing and what we wanted to do,” Sarden says, it became obvious: “This is the right product for the application."