The Arkansas Studies Institute, a unique partnership between a metropolitan Library and two Universities, is a repository for 10 million historic documents and the papers of seven Arkansas Governors, including President William Jefferson Clinton. The project is a 2011 National AIA/ALA Award winner, one of only five projects selected worldwide in the biennial competition.
Located in a thriving entertainment district near the Clinton Library, the design combines significant, but neglected buildings from the 1880’s and 1910’s with a new technologically expressive archive addition, creating a pedestrian focused, iconic gateway to the library campus - and the public face of Arkansas history.
The design philosophy employed by Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects is based literally on the book - a physical container of information, with pages flowing into the site as a physical narrative of the building’s function. Multiple curving glass walls of the new main façade represent pages of an open book, where patrons literally walk through the pages of history, from new to historic spaces. A thin atrium pulls the new structure away to protect the old, stretching the building’s length and flooding all levels with light – a key sustainable strategy. 100 historic images in the atrium’s glass handrails signify that architecture can and should actively engage in storytelling. Public Spaces - galleries, a café, a museum, and meeting rooms - enliven streetscape storefronts, while the great research hall encompasses the entire second floor of the 1914 building. Document storage displayed through the atrium’s glass walls expresses that knowledge is within reach. Suspended bridges span the gap between new and old, open and secure, today and yesterday. The west façade’s frosted glass fins control sun exposure while displaying historic faces of Arkansas life, like large book marks in time.