What Two People Saw

When the Library-Event Center Concept Was Unveiled

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

What Two People Saw

On the evening of November 1, Sir David Adjaye, lead architect on the library-event center, revealed his conceptual design before a capacity crowd in the Rachel Murrah Civic Center, which the new building will eventually replace.

Sir David’s presentation was broadcast live via several media outlets, and a video recording of the presentation is still available on the City Website.

This being Winter Park, now that most people have seen it, everyone has an opinion about it. Impressions of Adjaye’s concept offered here by two of our readers broadly reflect the views of our citizens. If your views differ, we invite you to weigh in.

While everyone’s view matters, the views that matter most will be those of the Commissioners. They will decide on Monday, November 13, whether or not we move forward with the concept as proposed.

If the City adopts the concept, Commissioners and City staff must determine how to accomplish the task within the confines of the site and the budget. If the City decides to go another direction, the Commission will assume the responsibility for guiding us down that path, as well. The Commission’s task is not an easy one.


In Praise of Adjaye’s Design

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

I was prepared to dislike the design proposal from Sir David Adjaye and his colleagues. Aside from his Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C., I had seen little from him that I could appreciate or to which I could relate. But when I heard his presentation and saw his concept for Winter Park, I was surprised to the upside. Every time I review the slides and the various elements of the presentation, I like it more.

What is presented here is my perception of the design concept. What is not presented here is a defense for the park location or for the $30 million budget. The bond referendum passed. The issues have been litigated, in the court system as well as in the court of public opinion. Now, we must move on.

What I see in Sir David’s concept are deceptively simple, yet uniquely appropriate, shelters to hold all of the activities and all of the people which will occupy them for years to come. I see a design which bears no time stamp. In the words of Raymond Loewy, “Good design does not become obsolete.”

The structures acknowledge their placement in a lovely park with water views. They take maximum advantage of these, even including a stage at the water’s edge, designed to make the most of the slope to the water. One enters from Morse Blvd. at ground level and advances onto the plaza and into a vantage point from which to survey the park and green space beyond.

I would be very surprised if everyone embraced the concept Sir David showed us. This speaks more to his artistry than it does to the amount of time he did or did not spend in Winter Park.

The winning aspects of the design are many — the column-less, ultra-flexible interior space, the inspired roof line that provides both rain and sun protection, the expansive windows that function to bring the outside in while fostering line-of-sight-contact among users of all spaces, and the thoughtful consideration of the prevailing winds in placing the structures.

Weather control is not possible at the current library any more than it will be at the new one, but Adjaye tried his best to mitigate it. The summer and winter solstices found their way into his renderings. Sun and warmth will be allowed to penetrate most deeply in winter, far less in summer when the roof line creates an angled barrier.

Low maintenance yet highly versatile concrete and glass comprise the exterior makeup of the buildings. The massive glass panes are slanted. Observe any air control tower and some department store windows to recognize this is done to maximize visibility and reduce glare. I suspect it will also help with heat reduction.

The commission must thoroughly explore this before they sign off. Folks have expressed a concern that this glass will turn the library into a massive oven under the Florida sun. I doubt Sir Adjaye just forgot Florida is a subtropical hot environment, but heating and cooling costs will matter.

I am struck by the playfulness of the design and the lightness of feel. It makes me think of parachutes. Adjaye said he hoped it felt like one had placed a “perfect tent” in this lovely place.

It’s true. There is no building in Winter Park that looks like this. Still, there are familiar elements. I think it can belong.

Against the backdrop of this inspiring design, talk of cost over-runs, storm water management and parking issues have reared their ugly heads. We are at a cross roads.

Our Commissioners face a difficult decision.

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

By Guest Columnist William Deuchler

Thank you for scheduling the special meeting to allow the public a first glimpse of the conceptual design for the new Library and Civic Center. It was helpful and informative, but also very disappointing to me.

During the first couple of minutes of Sir David’s talk, I thought that just maybe we might have a chance for a design that would truly add to the character of Winter Park.  He talked about the unique ecology of Florida.  He pointed to our history and some of the architectural history of our town.  Although Sir David spoke of how those things would influence his design, when the design was unveiled, I saw no reference either to our history or to our unique setting.

Consider this if you will. What do people say is so charming about our town after a first visit?  I believe the answer is, clearly, Park Avenue.  And what is so charming about Park Avenue? People love the historic character of the buildings, the inviting human scale of the streetscape and the understated elegance which is, at the same time, modern and highly functional.

Now, what is the one building that is conspicuously out of character with the rest of Park Avenue? That would be City Hall, a contemporary, mid-century modern building. City Hall is a “statement” building that shouts, “I’m different, I want to be noticed for myself.”

Do we really want another “statement” civic building? It will certainly be the most significant and visible project in the general downtown area.  It may also be the LAST and largest civic building built in Winter Park — at least until the current City Hall is renovated.

Why not have a legacy building that is consistent with the character of Winter Park?  Even Disney knew that you don’t build a Tomorrow Land structure on Main Street.

I also have reservations about the proposed design from a practical perspective — in particular, the requirement for exterior transit and the amount of glass used in the concept. The fact that, to enter the Library or Event Center, one would have to walk outside after being let off is silly for our climate.  Anyone who has been caught in one of our summer rainstorms knows that if you are outside, you are going to get wet.  It’s hot in Florida most of the year.  People prefer to get out of the sun and into air conditioning as quickly as possible.

I doubt if the plaza areas Adjaye envisions would be used more than three to four months per year.  Even when the weather is cool, the Florida sun reflecting off those expansive glass windows will likely make the ‘Belvedere’ unbearable.

Turning to the interior spaces, just ask anyone who lost trees in the hurricane what happened to the temperature of their home.  Unless you have a tree canopy above that building, it is going to be one big furnace on the inside, no matter how much engineering goes into those elegantly canted sides – this is Florida!

I urge the Commission to vote NO to the conceptual design as presented.  It will be painful, but there’s still time to cut our losses, thank Sir David for his effort, and get an architect who isn’t going to create “Leary’s Folly,” someone who will design a building that really does reflect our #1 value of, “Honor our historic and cultural features throughout Winter Park.”

We, the taxpayers, are going to spend 30 million of our tax dollars on this project. It’s worth taking the time to get this project right.

  • author's avatar

    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

  • author's avatar

10 replies
  1. Cigar says:

    Most political insiders would agree that elections are all about ADDITION. Very simple. Whoever gets the most votes wins.

    What a lot of people forget is that elections are also about MULTIPLICATION.

    Mayor Leary has a multiplication problem with his library that could lead to a problem for him during his re-election bid early next year.

    He already has thousands of Winter Park voters who are unhappy with the decision to spend $30 million on a library, that nobody can seem to agree even what its purpose will ultimately be.

    That discontent was multiplied when the decision was made to put the new library in MLK Park, a longer drive for most residents than the existing library location, The MLK Park library will force Winter Park residents to complete for space and book check out privileges with residents of other nearby cities along 17-92 and I-4, and has been noted as an infringement of what is becoming the “third rail”of Winter Park politics – green space.

    And now, as the reader comments so aptly illustrate, controversy over the new design adds yet another multiplier, and another challenge to Leary’s re-election.

    The question Leary must answer is how many votes does he stand to gain or lose from approving the design? In order for him to gain votes by approving it, voters must BOTH believe that it is the very best design possible for their new library AND that the project the design represents is worth $30 million of THEIR money.

    Even design supporters say only that they like the design, and stop short of saying that it’s the best design imaginable. Unless these same individuals have $30 million laying around somewhere, most would likely want their mayor to demand value commensurate with the price.

    So, what is Leary to do?

    My expectation is that Leary might pull a trick from Ken Bradley’s playbook on this one. Former Winter Park mayor Ken Bradley had this thing where he never wanted to be linked to any tax increase. So whenever the City fee schedule was brought up for discussion, Bradley would not voice any opposition, leaving his fellow commissioners with the impression that he agreed with it. Then when it came to a vote, Bradley would always vote “No” without explanation. In Winter Park, the mayor always votes last at Commission meetings.

    For Leary to do likewise on the library design vote would be to leave his fellow commissioners to take the political heat for the approval of the controversial project. The other commissioners might be mad that Leary voted “No,” and left them hanging out to dry, but there would be nothing they could do about it at that point because they would have already voted “Yes.”

    This would move forward the design and would put Leary on the “winning” side with the voters as the ONLY commissioner to vote “No” on the controversial MLK Park library design. Remember, Leary very much wants the library to be built. He just has to figure out a way to get it built without it costing him politically. And this might be just what he has in mind. Stay tuned.

    • Good Bye "Winter Park" Library says:

      There’s a reason why many in Winter Park are now calling the proposed new Winter Park Library the “Eatonville-Winter Park Library.”

      Those who can calculate driving distances on their computer or GPS can see it with their own eyes. Or for those who have a little more time, drive it yourself.

      From Winter Park High School, 2100 Summerfield Road, Winter Park, to the new Winter Park Library site at 1050 West Morse Blvd. is 4.8 miles or 4.2 miles depending on the route one takes.

      From the landmark Fish House at 558 East Kennedy Blvd, Eatonville, to 1050 West Morse Blvd is only 2.2 miles.

      Winter Park High School is DOUBLE the Eatonville driving distance to the proposed site of Winter Park’s new $30 million library.

      Driving TIMES are even more worlds apart. Everyone who has ever driven Lakemont or Fairbanks late afternoon understands this. And Winter Park traffic can only be expected to worsen. Low density Eatonville traffic is light.

      While it may be commonly known as the Winter Park Library, it is actually a PUBLIC library. Anyone can use the library. Because of its current central location it has until now been used by Winter Park residents primarily.

      The move to the west side makes it even more a PUBLIC library. And the percentage of non-Winter Park residents in the library at anyone time can be expected to increase rather significantly. There is no legal way to restrict use of the library from those not living in Winter Park.

      For this reason, though its supporters will deny it, Winter Park residents may soon tire of paying the annual maintenance and operating costs for a library that perhaps will be used less than 50% by its own residents. When that happens it is quite possible that Winter Park will turn the library over completely to Orange County to operate, taking the “Winter Park” out of the Winter Park Library altogether.

      During this debate about costs, designs, park space, etc., what everyone forgot to discuss was the very real possibility that this closure of our existing library and building a new one may at some point in the not too distant future mean that Winter Park will no longer have a library that it can truly call its own.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for providing an open, respectful forum for all points of view, at this website and at Facebook. Info and insights shared by Chele Hipp and Sandy Womble at FB have been particularly illuminating and address issues that concern many in WP.

  3. Love the Park says:

    I too was prepared to dislike the design of the new library. I had Googled Sir David’s other projects in Stockholm, Manchester and London, not to mention the African-American History Museum in Washington. They all seemed so monumental. Of course, the buildings were in populated urban areas which are very different from our village.
    My fear was that the library/event center would bear that monumental trademark. It does not. Sir David’s design is for a low structure fitting to the character of Winter Park. It is open and takes full advantage of the lake (sink hole) vista and park. I love that.
    Park Avenue’s buildings are really a hodgepodge if you study them. Talbots and the Panera Building are not historic but the eclectic nature of Park Avenue is part of its charm. That and the fact that Central Park extends from Garfield to New England across from the shops and restaurants. What a generous use of land. And how unique to a central business district.
    Even Worth Avenue in Palm Beach has shops, restaurants and department stores crowded onto both sides of the street. The property there is too valuable to turn some of it into open space.
    I say “So far so good”. Sir David’s rendering is a concept. It will be many years (till 2020) before the final design becomes reality.
    My only concern is the cost. The bond issue is for $27 million with $3 million to be raised through private donations. Will it be enough?

  4. WP Conspiracy Realist says:

    The reason why the new library is designed as it is because it’s designed to be an art museum, not a library.

    Here’s how you know:

    1) Enormous inclined windows.

    There’s no reason why a library user would want to look out the window for more than a few moments. Library visits are normally for viewing words in print and digital formal.

    On the other hand someone visits an art museum precisely to look at “the big picture.” A feast for the eyes. Art, sometimes accompanied by views, is what people are there for.

    2) Grand drop off entrance.

    This is consistent with art museums, not libraries.

    3) Art work on walls hint.

    The conceptual design includes one rendering that includes pictures on the walls.

    4) Size of building.

    The size is too small for a regional library. The location selected is a regional one, and down the street from Orlando Museum of Art.

    5) Change of City Motto

    The City Motto was recently changed to “City of Arts and Culture.”

    6) Lecture and “library” space together

    This is consistent with art museums. People walk by as they are looking at art, hear the lecture and stop in.

    7) Mayor Ken Bradley once said that Winter Park’s arts want a place where they can show their greatness. This has been in the works for quite some time.

    8) Surface parking

    Orlando Museum of Art has surface parking. It’s a copycat.

    9) One or more of Winter Park’s art museums would have a place to consolidate and/or spread out.

    10) An art museum in Brazil has the exact same inclined windows facing the sea.


    When the library fails in a few years due to its design, location, and parking deficiency, another ballot referendum will be proposed, for another bond to convert the new library space to an art museum and build another library somewhere else in Winter Park.

  5. Designed to Fail says:

    The downtown Orlando Library is 290,000 sq. ft.

    Even if you split the difference, you’d still be talking about a minimum 145,000 sq. ft. needed for a regional library on Morse Blvd. in Winter Park near 17-92 and I-4.

    The proposed 34,000 sq. ft. library and parking will be inadequate for all the people from the seven cities in the immediate vicinity who will use the new Winter Park Library.

    Called “Winter Park Library” the access to major highways will in effect make it “The North Orange / South Seminole Regional Library.”

    It’s failure by design.

    That’s why all the talk of “flex space,” “multiple use,” and “efficiencies” in the design. Because once it fails as a library it can be used as an art museum. That way, Winter Park residents are bypassed from voting on an art museum bond because the art museum will have already been built with pubic funds.

    The library referendum specified that a library would be built. Period. Just like it said nothing about it being built in MLK Park it also said nothing about HOW LONG it would be a library. As long as it’s a library for ONE DAY, the bond referendum language passes the technicality.

    And when it fails as a library, the whole task force, bond referendum, starts all over again to build yet another library, with yet another tax increase.

  6. Cheshire Cat says:

    So why was the President of Rollins College seated in the front row of the library design presentation seen grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat?

    Well, wouldn’t you if you were being handed the keys to the old library to demo to expand your successful hotel operation AND being given tons of space in a brand new 34,000 sq. ft. art museum in the Morse Blvd. 17-92 I-4 corridor to display your Cornell collection?


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