This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

August 2, 2007 - Architects Vie for Parker Project

When I was in high school, I read a book that changed my life. It was Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead." Among other things, it was about an architect who designed absolutely original, and highly functional, buildings: private residences, housing projects, gas stations, skyscrapers.

You wouldn't think reading about that stuff would be thrilling. But it was.

Man, I wanted to be an architect. I even got a summer job in an architect's office.

Alas, much like another career plan that didn't pan out (theoretical astrophysics), I just didn't have the genetic predisposition to succeed in that field. Imagine: they wanted me to have artistic and mathematical ability. Who knew?

But I do have an appreciation for art and math. And in architecture, I think I've learned to figure out when something is derivative, or unique, a mishmash of conflicting and poorly articulated aims, or an elegant and incisive solution to real problems.

I've been fortunate to direct libraries in a growing county, so have had the chance to work with lots of architects over the years. But one of the projects we're investigating now is just about the most exciting I've seen.

The Town of Parker and the Douglas County Libraries have teamed up to sponsor an architectural competition. The point of the competition is to select a team that can create a compelling vision of something that just might transform the town and the library.

What is the project? A civic center consisting of a 45,000 square foot library, and a 500-750 seat performing arts center. The two would occupy a currently vacant 9.6 acre parcel of land.

But this isn't just a public project, unconcerned with its surroundings. Our intent is to build a vital public hub, connecting everything from existing pedestrian trails to the still growing commercial establishments of Mainstreet. We see this project as an essential anchor to a thriving downtown, a place of public pride, and genuine civic engagement.

Our current Parker Library, desperately undersized for the eager readers of the community, has over 1,000 visitors per day. That kind of traffic -- of all ages, all day long -- can be a tremendous economic boost to the right neighbors. In recognition of that, the Parker business community has been tremendously supportive of the project. The Town of Parker has even committed land to the library side of the development, for which we are deeply grateful.

But to make this vision a reality, we need two things: a preliminary plan, and thoughtful estimates of cost. And that's where the competition comes in.

The competitors are among the finest architects in the region -- and beyond. The finalists are:

* Barker Rinker Seacat
* Humphries Poli Architects, with Semple Brown Design
* Sink, Combs, Dethlefs and Thomas Hacker Architects

Each of them has an extraordinary body of work. And on August 8, they will be doing public presentations of their ideas for this project from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Parker Town Hall. Designs will also be on display at both the Parker Library and Town Hall, beginning on August 7.

Public comments are strongly encouraged. They will feed into a decision, by a joint committee of Town Council and Library Trustees, on Tuesday, August 21.

Maybe, like me, you don't have what it takes to design a great building. But you just might have what it takes to recognize one.

We hope you'll take the time to participate in the evolution of a community.

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