Michael Tyznik

Clifton branch library

Student project. Design for a branch library in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati. My design for a Clifton branch library of the Cincinnati library system was based upon the concept that libraries are seemingly contradictory dualities. They are public places where one goes to perform a private, personal activity. They must be open and inviting, but at the same time closed enough to allow serious study.

I had previously investigated retail storefront design, and I knew the effects powerful branding and window display design has on me and and on others. The Cincinnati library system already has a strong branding program, and in my design, the branding is carried throughout the building. The logo is integrated into the façade of the building and the information desks inside, and the system's signature color is carried in finishes throughout. The first floor of the library is almost completely transparent. The sight lines into the building, views through to the courtyard, and the exciting window displays invite people into the building.

The children's section, where quiet is less important, is located at the front of the building, nearest the street. It is separated from the main stacks and reading rooms by a courtyard. Sight lines from one wing to the other allow parents to keep an eye on their kids.

As one progresses upwards in the building, the spaces become more private and closed to the outside world. The second floor utilizes translucent glass, while the third floor is closed on three sides, but open to the courtyard. The fourth floor, where are located private reading areas and tutoring rooms, is clad in zinc paneling with thick concrete walls. In appearance and experience, it is like a fortress. Small windows frame specific views of trees and the sky. A reading garden is closed on all sides but open to the sky.

The library also serves as a community center, so the building needs to be accessible even when the library is closed. A hidden partition can close off the library so that users can enter through the courtyard door and have access to the meeting and computer facilities.

To the north of the site is the near-windowless façade of an apartment building, so all emergency stairs run along this façade. Each floor has a separate emergency stair, and inserted into the small extra spaces in this volume are storage areas and reading corners.


Circulation desk

View into courtyard


Basement plan

Ground floor plan

Second floor plan

Third floor plan

Fourth floor plan