Design Director Justin Bashaw started his architectural career at Gensler as an intern, where he “fell in love with the company” and came back as a full-fledged architect after he had received his master’s degree and licensing in 2018. Overall, Bashaw has spent 12 years at Gensler.

His current role as design director put him in charge of the architectural design team for the new Frisco Public Library, which held its grand opening on March 4.

Badshaw sat down with Community Impact for an interview about the vision and process behind Frisco's new public library.

What does a design director do?

I’m on the project from the very beginning, working with the client on visioning, and getting stakeholder consensus and developing sort of big ideas, and building a story around those ideas [so] that we can get everybody on the same page, going in the right direction. There’s design directors involved throughout the project, and so, I’m working with the team and even doing small things, such as drawing details that show the contractor how to put the building together. Two big things, like resolving how finishes and the massing, [or general shape], is going to come together, and design and how this building comes together was my role.

What drew you to this project?

I think a library is the epitome of a community-based building. It’s built on sharing; that’s the whole premise of a library. You’re sharing books, collectively, among other resources, and so the library is a perfect example of a great social piece of infrastructure. I have a soft spot in my heart for libraries—I was a latchkey kid and spent many hours in the library after school waiting for mom to finish work.

How long did it take for the library designs to come together?

We had our first visioning session in January of 2020. Design really goes from that first meeting all the way through to the time we submit for permits, and we submitted for permits [in] December 2020. So it was almost a full calendar year of design effort.

What was your favorite part of the library?

It changes every time you ask me. When you go into this space, I think the first thing you realize is the scale. It’s massive. It’s certainly not the biggest library in the world, but in this region it’s pretty darn big. That’s very similar to a lot of the old turn-of-the-century, classical libraries that have been built in the U.S. like the Boston Public Library. And so the proportion and the volume is pretty grand. And you just don’t see that in libraries these days. It’s rare; it ends up being a pretty spectacular space when you go inside.

What specific feature were you the most excited to see in the final result?

There was a period there where we thought we were not going to get this terrace space on the second floor. We had done a lot of daylighting studies to make sure that there wasn’t a lot of glare, and we’re always working against a budget and making sure that we can accommodate all the wishes from the client. Ultimately, we landed on a very interesting strategy where we have an outdoor terrace base that’s both under the roof on one part and then also exposed to the outside.

What should people know about the Frisco Public Library?

The building itself has seen various different seasons in its lifecycle. It originally was a rocket factory. And then there was a period in the middle where they’re manufacturing food production machines for chicken nuggets and various other things, which I think is hilarious. And now it’s a library, so I love how you can take an asset like a rocket factory and then give it so many different lives along the way. Hopefully it’s a library for a while, but we’ll see where it goes after that.

What was the last book you checked out from a library?

It was probably a book for one of my children. “Grumpy Monkey” was probably the one I remember visually seeing.