After laying dormant for almost two decades, this adaptive reuse revitalizes Nashville’s former Main Public Library building as creative office space.
The Carnegie Library of Nashville opened to the public in 1904. By 1963, the City’s growth necessitated a larger facility and the City commissioned a new building be built on the same site at 225 Polk Avenue. In 2001, after 36 years as Nashville’s Main Public Library, 225 Polk was abandoned for an even larger facility two blocks away.
After the library relocated, the building remained mostly dormant until 2017 when it was purchased from the City. The new owners – also partners in a fast-growing architecture firm – identified with the building’s firm roots in the City and its timeless flexibility. They were intent to restore the original structure and give the building new life as creative office space, including their own studio.
The design concept focused on respecting and celebrating the rich history of the building while introducing a modern interior intervention providing for future flexibility.
In a state of disrepair, the 55-year-old building required a twelve-million-dollar restoration including extensive façade repair, a complete replacement of all building systems, and the introduction of new technologies and efficiencies.
The New Formalist building employs Classical elements with repeating columns and arches punctuating the horizontality of the building. Georgia Cherokee marble panels were cleaned, repaired, and/or replaced with new stone matched from the original quarry. The original curtainwall frames were left in place, replacing only the glass with modern, clearer, high-performance glass. The original terrazzo floor in the lobby and the terrazzo-clad monumental stair were also refurbished.
Modern intervention as part of the adaptive reuse kept the space as open as possible. A minimalist black and white palette with walnut accents was inspired by original interior details. The original concrete columns, shear walls, and one-way ribbed slabs were stripped, cleaned, and left exposed to reveal the beauty of the original structure.
Honoring the original building, the studio maintains an open plan. As with a library, the space offers varying degrees of privacy from individual focused workspace to a large café and open studio. A walnut slat wall – directly inspired by a slat wall in the original library auditorium – delineates between public space and the studio.
Illuminating the history of the building, linear pendant lights run diagonally across the studio referring to the library stacks which ran in the same direction. Inspired by classic library tables, walnut topped desks sit in long rows throughout the studio.
The spirit of the former library auditorium remains intact with The Athenaeum – a 1,500-square-foot community room located directly off the building’s main lobby and accessible to the public and intended for use by community organizations and non-profit groups.
Today, 225 Polk stands newly restored and thriving as a creative hub, home to the architecture and interior design firm that restored it and the Nashville office of global company United Talent Agency to open late summer 2020.
Since their founding in 1985, HASTINGS has been deeply committed to design and their community producing award-winning work that is both accretive and impactful to their clients and the communities they serve. HASTINGS’ passionate and creative staff of 75 architects, interior designers, and planners collaborate together in their studio at 225 Polk Avenue in Downtown Nashville.
Hastings is consistently recognized nationally for our work and progressive firm culture. In 2019, the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, ARCHITECT magazine, named Hastings #3 Overall, #7 in Design, #10 in Business, and #35 in Sustainability on their annual ARCHITECT 50 ranking.