Mystery Solved

“Comfortable, inspiring, and easy to use,” were the clues to this library design architect Alfred Godfrey received from his mystery writer client. Inspiring was fairly simple since the 28-by-48-foot building overlooks a protected wilderness basin. The owner wanted the books to capture as much attention as the panorama outside, so Godfrey designed an interior that draws the eye to the cherry shelves. Casement windows open up to the valley while reinforcing the verticality naturally created by bookshelves. Tongue-and-groove pine planks outlined in cherry trim line the 22-foot-high peaked ceiling that is segmented by rhythmically spaced concrete arches and semicircular transoms. Shelves below the arches are extra deep so that they read like columns to reinforce the design's balanced repetition. They also “act as landmarks to organize the collection and provide a place for special books,” says Godfrey.

Rough plaster walls above the shelves along with the scored concrete floor give the space a tactile warmth. Lower shelves extend out to hold oversized books and to create a “browsing shelf” that makes it easy to pick out a title and look at it in place. Shorter shelf spans meant thinner boards could be used so the focus is on the books. “The room is generous enough to read and study in a number of settings and allows for a range of ways to approach the books,” Godfrey adds. Builder: Crowell, Austin, Texas; Architect: Limbacher & Godfrey Architects, Austin; Cabinetmaker: Max Rockoff, Austin; Photographer: Paul Bardagjy.