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McAllen Public Library, McAllen, Texas

The $25.7 million library opened in December 2011, and has garnered awards in two national design contests, the 2013 American Institute of Architects Honor Awards for Interior Architecture and the International Interior Design Association/American Library Association's 2012 Library Interior Design Competition.

Placed on the site of a vacant Wal-Mart, the adaptive reuse project saved approximately 130,000 square feet of building demolition debris from being sent to the local landfill. Boultinghouse Simpson Gates Architects, the architect of record, was placed under the restriction that the new library was in no way to resemble the building's previous retail tenant, according to John Gates, AIA, principal, Boultinghouse Simpson Gates.

McAllen Public Library occupies 123,000 square feet on one floor, making it the largest one-story library in the country. The entryway includes a 108- by 44-foot canopy clad in 3A Composites USA Inc.'s Alucobond aluminum composite material (ACM) panels. A total of 15,000 square feet of 6-mm Alucobond ACM in the contemporary Steel City Silver Mica color was installed on the library, including as cladding on the main entry canopy and on a secondary entry canopy. Alucobond was also installed on the library's exterior identity signage and as building trim.

The main entry canopy is supported by two concrete walls-one of which is submerged in a pool and includes a circular opening. Water cascades through the opening into the pool. This water-wall was designed to pump more than 2,000 gallons per minute to mask traffic noise from a nearby busy intersection and to the area surrounding the canopy on hot days. Alucobond ACM is installed as library signage that wraps around three sides of the water-wall. Signage text was water-jet cut into the Alucobond.

The main entry canopy plays an important role in shielding library patrons from the elements in McAllen, according to Gates. "It can get brutally hot in the summer here. So it was important to provide shade as far out into the parking lot as possible." Formable Alucobond also performed well in the secondary 60- by 30-foot canopy, which includes a circular opening to allow a palm tree to grow through it, according to Eduardo Richa, general partner with fabricator and installer, Bowman Distributing Co. "The Alucobond shapes well," says Richa.

The secondary canopy is located on the library's northeast corner, which is dark much of the time, according to Gates. "We wanted to illuminate the space," says Gates. "Putting the tree through the opening adds interest."

Gates says the Alucobond Steel City Mica color worked well in the building's new color scheme, which Boultinghouse Simpson Gates created in consultation with Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle Ltd. The latter firm designed the library's interior as a consultant to Boultinghouse Simpson Gates. "The overall theme of growth was applied to the colors and shapes in the new library," says Gates. "The colors are based on local nature, including the colorful birds that pass through the Rio Grande Valley each spring when they migrate from South America to Canada."

Alucobond was selected for its durability, according to Gates, who became familiar with the original aluminum composite material in a previous project for a car dealership. "We wanted a metal panel for the library that was durable and resistant to oil canning," notes Gates. "The panel also had to hold up to any flying debris that could dent it." The Alucobond dramatically demonstrated its ability to meet that last requirement during a spring storm that hit McAllen on March 29, 2012.

Exterior walls of the old Wal-Mart consisted of 12-inch-thick concrete block painted light blue. Those walls were covered in stucco in Baguette, Humble Gold and Rugged Brown colors. An outdoor children's area is partitioned with a wall that features three tile mosaics by local artist Yolanda Cantu. Three storefront building openings trimmed in Alucobond face the mosaics. The Alucobond in Steel City Mica also is juxtaposed against the Hyper Blue epoxy paint denoting the City of McAllen in the library's exterior concrete monument signage. "The Alucobond is a fairly dark metal panel; but, it changes colors depending on the time of day," says Gates.


3A Composites USA Inc.,