Death of a Wal-Mart, Birth of an Award-Winning Library

Check out this year's Library Interior Design winners, including a converted Wal-Mart and two Boston locations

McAllen Public Library

Who says death can’t be beautiful? Okay, so maybe this Wal-Mart in McAllen, Texas, didn’t die, per se, but it did move, leaving behind an empty warehouse. Rather than let this space be a pox on the community landscape (such as Wal-Marts tend to do) or wait around for another big-box store to move in, these McAlleners transformed the space—greater than two football fields in size—into the largest single-story public library in America. Touchdown.

McAllen Public Library

More than just a smart move, the new McAllen Public Library is also a beautiful site (and sight), garnering global attention from the International Interior Design Association.

McAllen Public Library

The space won Best of Category for public libraries more than 30,000 sq. ft. in the 2012 Library Interior Design Competition.

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library

But Texas isn’t the only state receiving recognition for its luxe libraries. In the same competition, our very own Boston Public Library received an honorable mention in the “Single Space” category. The BPL renovated the space in question for the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, pictured above, which opened in October 2011. Featuring an exhibition gallery, a public learning center, and a reading room for rare map research, the Leventhal Map Center came to fruition with the help of international architecture and design firm Gensler, who has a Boston location.

Boston Public Library, Mattapan Branch

The BPL’s Mattapan branch, which opened in 2009, also received an honorable mention, with the William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc., firm helping them place in the public libraries less than 30,000 sq. ft. category.

So next time you work from home, consider instead heading to either of these Boston-area libraries to see for yourself what results when beauty and brains collide.

All photos courtesy of the International Interior Design Association.