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February 21, 2018

Moshe Safdie: designing new Boise library is not just ‘small potatoes'

Moshe Safdie’s firm said its design for the Salt Lake City Library, shown here, is flexible so it can grow with the city. Boise’s current library is in a retrofitted warehouse from the 1940s.

The Associated Press reports that Boise officials have hired famed architect Moshe Safdie to design a new main library to replace the current library, which is a retrofitted warehouse from the 1940s.

The Boise City Council on Tuesday approved a 12-week contract with Safdie, according to the Idaho Statesman. Safdie designed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, as well as other buildings around the world.

Safdie will work with Boise architecture firm CSHQA on the 110,000-square-foot library. The site is where the existing main library now stands near the Boise River.

“To have an architect of this caliber just makes everything better,” Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said. “It makes the prospect of raising money a little easier. It just raises the excitement level, which was already good. And the prospects of getting a great building are increasing significantly.”

Boise has been trying to replace the current library for nearly two decades and solicited proposals last year. Safdie's team was one of seven that applied and ultimately got the job.

“One of the questions I asked him was, ‘Why would you want to do this project? It seems like small potatoes for you,'” said Kevin Booe, library director. “And he said, ‘No. I really like the community projects.'”

Safdie visited Boise in December and again in January, examining the site and making notes, Boise Arts and History Director Terri Schorzman said.

“The second time he came, he spent the day wandering that entire site, into Julia Davis Park, trying to look at all the vantage points, looking at every single angle and getting a sense of location and place and color,” Schorzman said. “His notebook was just filled with amazing stuff he'd already worked on, just in that day.”

The Spokesman Review said Safdie is comfortable with Boise's budget, which is about $70 million.

Boise would pay Safdie, his team and CSHQA $395,000 to design the library.

The design team could provide preliminary concepts by April, including reusing or replacing the existing building. The city hopes to have a final design in May.