The library forms an integral part of the new Des Moines 'Western Gateway Park'. This area of the city is currently undergoing extensive redevelopment and the new library and park will become a centrepiece for the urban renewal of Des Moines.
Located at the east end of the park, the new library acts as a link between downtown Des Moines and the park. On the one hand, it responds to the city block, but at the same time it stretches out into the parkland, floating in the surrounding landscape, thus creating outside spaces of different character while conveying to the visitor the feeling of sitting in the park while reading a book.
The 'Gateway Gallery', a flexible activity space, forms part of a public route through the building, reinforcing its bridging character between the park and the city and blending the threshold between library and park. Administration and back of house services are housed in the east wing.
The stacks are arranged in such a way that one will always be able to see into the park, creating a sense of openness and transparency. In addition to book stacks, the library also accommodates education facilities, children's play areas and a conference wing with a cafe, reinforcing the public nature of the building and providing a platform for public life.
The two storey concrete structure sits above an underground car park and is entirely wrapped in a composite energy efficient glass-metal skin. Laminated between two glass surfaces, a layer of expanded copper mesh reduces glare and solar gain, thus greatly reducing long-term energy costs. The mesh is the only sun-shading device necessary, ensuring that the view from the inside into the park is maintained at all times. Slight variations in the make up of the panels provide the library with a differentiated yet uniform skin, emphasising the organic shape of the building.