Malcolm Holzman + Amanda Rienth on Designing for Public Use and Creating a Library for the 21st Century | Episode 7

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Welcome back to the Agati Video Podcast, a space where Joe Agati, COO & Director of Design here at Agati Furniture, hosts conversations with designers, architects, and difference-makers to bring inspiration and education to your work.

“Architecture is really about communication, not self-expression.” – Malcolm Holzman

For today’s episode of the podcast, we have not one, but two top-tier guests! We’re welcoming Malcolm Holzman, member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame and Partner at Steinberg Hart, as well as Amanda Rienth, Principal at Steinberg Hart with extensive expertise in both public and academic libraries.

Malcolm and Amanda share what it looks like to focus on design for public use, what they’ve learned as a firm from navigating COVID-19, how libraries are currently being redefined, the background behind an incredible redesign at the University of Central Florida that has been in the works since 2003, and more.

This conversation was truly an honor. Both Malcolm and Amanda have so much wisdom to share. You’ll walk away not only with practical insight about design and public use, but also an inspiration for the beautiful future we have an opportunity to build together. Listen in!



  • “We make public use buildings, so the inside is as important as the outside.”
  • “Architecture is really about communication, not self-expression.”
  • “It’s fascinating to dig deeper into history to find opportunities for stories that need to be told.”
  • “Libraries are being redefined at this very moment.”
  • “Too many libraries are beginning to look like airports.”
  • “What does it mean to be welcoming? Every community defines it differently.”
  • “We are learning about a lot of things we can do online, but we’re also learning that a few things are done better in-person.”
  • “They didn’t know they could have a memorable space in addition to all the functional spaces they needed.”
  • “I think we’re going to want to preserve our future. We do have a future.”

Our Key Takeaways:

1) Libraries are going through a significant shift. This was a really interesting aspect of this conversation. Libraries are no longer a structured, strictly book-focused space. They are becoming community centers designed to support a variety of interactions between people and resources.

2) Designing for public use is the way forward. Designing for human behavior is a huge passion for us here at Agati, and Steinberg Hart shares that vision. This isn’t just about aesthetic and it isn’t just about function. It’s about community, purpose, meaning, and how everything works together. Understanding who you’re designing for is where every project should start.

3) There is an optimistic future ahead. This final encouragement from Malcolm was inspiring. The last couple years have been hard. While we’ve all learned a lot, we now have an opportunity to collectively build a future we’re proud of, a future worth preserving.

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