Bricks & Mortar: New design for Hyattsville library incorporates green space and glass

July 18, 2015

Photo courtesy Caroline Selle.
GRAY O'DWYER —

BY GRAY O’DWYER —

Plans for the replacement Hyattsville Branch Library were presented to the Hyattsville community on June 15 by the county’s chosen architectural firm, Grimm + Parker. Lead architect Melanie Hennigan gave the presentation, supported by G + P Director of Design Antonio Rebelo and landscape architect Sharon Bradley of Bradley Site Design.

The new library design incorporates an open floor plan and lots of window-glass to improve sight lines within the reading rooms. The second floor’s height and open areas allows sunlight and a sense of airiness, and also have the practical ability to act as community shelter in times of emergency or inclement weather. The design is thoughtfully planned for future library system needs; none of the fixtures or finishes are ‘tied’ to the floor plan, so that renovations in the future have the luxury of a blank slate within a useable building.


The proposed design covers a compact footprint, with a single pedestrian entrance opening onto Adelphi Road. Most parking will be underneath the building.

The entire building will be 39,000 square feet and include 123 parking slots. Surrounding the library are integrated green spaces intended to engage visitors with the environment while meeting updated standards for lot coverage, drainage, and stormwater management.

Grimm + Parker made an effort to respond to community interests by focusing heavily on children and teen reading areas, the Maryland Room history center, and by including trendy architectural features such as a green roof. The children’s area in particular is a “magical place” with a yellow brick road, houses for little pigs and little humans, and furniture that is “child-friendly in scale,” Rebelo said. (No plans yet on how librarians will explain the literary mismatch,  Dorothy isn’t going to huff or puff or blow anything down, and the Big Bad Wolf does not “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”)

The teen area features computers, LCD displays, and a smart board so users can express themselves on the walls of ‘their’ space. (No plans yet on how librarians will keep teenage boys from expressing themselves through phallic symbols). There will also be a self-service vending café, bookstore, and safely enclosed gas fireplaces for that little extra ambiance.


Hennigan said she wants the new library to “sit nicely as a neighbor,” serving all of the Hyattsville community and creating a bridge between residential and commercial areas.  At previous meetings, residents had expressed concerns about accessibility because the library lot is surrounded on two sides by heavy commercial development that is not pedestrian-friendly. The planned entrance on Adelphi Road does little to make the library safer or more convenient for walkers, but the covered parking does provide shelter and security for those who drive. The land along quieter Toledo Road will become the stormwater retention pond and a garden, and according to Sharon Bradley there will be connections to walking trails in the area.

Though many Hyattsville residents were saddened by the decision not to preserve the historic Hyattsville library with its space-age design, Hennigan said designers intend to maintain the “iconic ” feel in the new building. The beloved flying saucer that has caused so much controversy will, according to the new design, be saved from demolition. The dissociated saucer will form part of the new library’s main entrance on Adelphi Road. A memory wall in the main lobby will reference the original library’s contributions to Prince George’s County’s civil rights history. Hennigan says that the saucer “connects us to the past but also helps connect us to a more sustainable future”.

The new design incorporates many of the elements Hyattsville residents hoped for, and Grimm + Parker is committed to expanding library services with the new building. Community members are encouraged to attend future design presentations to continue public involvement as the plans get closer to final approval.