In Nashville, Donelson Library by HASTINGS Architecture opens to the public

A new $18.8 million public library by HASTINGS Architecture opened its doors recently in Nashville, Tennessee. The June 24 opening was celebrated with musical performances, a puppet show, and speeches by local Nashville politicians.

The 24,000-square-foot, LEED Gold–certified library is located 10 miles east of downtown Nashville in Donelson—a neighborhood known for its greenways, myriad transit connections, lively restaurants, and the Grand Ole Opry, a world famous music venue.

The architects told AN that Donelson Library takes cues from the neighborhood’s midcentury character. The design was shepherded by Dave Powell, principal-in-charge at HASTINGS, a firm that calls Nashville home. Former Nashville metro councilor Jeff Syracuse also played an important role bringing the project across the finish line.

“For many years, Donelson was all pavement and wires, all auto-oriented,” Syracuse told a local reporter at the opening. “We now have green space in the front, outdoor public art, and beautiful indoor art.”

Hastings Donelson Library 05 © Nick McGinn Photography
Facade detail (© Nick McGinn Photography)

The library was part of a broader masterplan by Holladay Properties for Donelson Plaza, a 1960s shopping center. Today, Holladay is transforming the site into a mixed-use community.

The facade at Donelson Library has a restrained material palette of brick, glass, and concrete breezeblock. White brick panels, angled back and forth along the sides of the building, imitate an argyle pattern. These features are perched above a generous green space outside the building—a scheme inspired by historic Southern porches characteristic of the region.

All of these motifs are meant to evoke iconic 1960s modernism while making a contemporary statement for the burgeoning neighborhood. Even its signage fits the bill: The wayfinding uses “atomic age” typography, HASTINGS shared.

Hastings Donelson Library 03 © Nick McGinn Photography 1
Evening view (© Nick McGinn Photography)

Despite the building’s retro look, it comes complete with modern amenities. The building provides a community lawn, public art by local artists, and a maker space for teenagers equipped with 3D printers, cameras, A/V equipment, and sewing stations.

HASTINGS Architecture also specified new accessibility features like an adult changing room, a computer station designed for patrons with children, and multilingual signage in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish. It also has a kitchen that can travel backed by the Stones River Woman’s Club.

The main collection and quiet spaces, a multipurpose community room, and study rooms are located on the first level. An open stair then guides visitors to the second floor, where the children’s and young adult collections are located. This space is passively shaded by the breezeblock screen, making it both aesthetic and functional.

Indeed, Donelson Library incorporates signature passive cooling strategies. Below its lawn are 30 geothermal wells that plunge 500 feet below grade. This allows the building to use the earth’s temperature to naturally heat and cool the structure year-round.

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