I.M. Pei’s Cleo Rogers Memorial Library sits across from Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church. The Carnegie Foundation funded the first library building on this site, a two-story Beaux Arts structure with a curved façade. In the 1950s the growing city sought to completely redesign the site. Completed in 1969, Pei’s library is a two-story structure with a rough Flemish brick façade. The library’s plaza includes Large Arch, a sculpture by Henry Moore that frames views of the surrounding buildings, creating a dialogue with Saarinen’s church.
IKD’s design for Conversation Plinth takes inspiration from the conversation pit in the Miller House and the plinths that elevate the landmarks immediately surrounding the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library. Encircling the Moore sculpture on the eastern half of the site, large shifting timber discs compose a series of plinths that rise upward towards the west and encourage dynamic circulation around the sculpture, allowing the plaza to be experienced in new ways - even by night, thanks to dramatic lighting. IKD plans to collaborate with cross-laminated timber (CLT) specialists to develop CLT made from Indiana hardwood by-products, potentially revolutionizing an industry that currently uses softwoods.
Johnston Marklee and Jonathan Olivares have collaborated on an ensemble that offers a visual and convivial response to the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library. View Room, a roofless structure sited as a pendant to Moore’s Large Arch at the other end of the plaza, frames views that highlight the relationships between the buildings and sculpture around the space. Multiples of Conversation Bench can be configured to offer visitors seats for quiet conversation or for concerts on the plaza. Together, the designs echo the figure/ground relationship that exist between Large Arch and the library, providing a visually and socially engaging setting for visitors and residents alike.