Commission members voted 4-2 against approving the design by Craig Gaulden Davis architectural firm of Greenville, S.C., after viewing the design at the proposed site on James Brown Boulevard between Greene and Telfair streets.
The matter will now go into mediation between a member of the East Central Georgia Regional Library Board, Planning Commission Director George Patty and historic commission Chairman Mark Lorah. If they can't come to an agreement, the library board can appeal to the Augusta Commission, which can overrule the historic board.
Library Director Gary Swint said Tuesday's decision could jeopardize the project, which has been in the works for four years. The cost of redesigning the building and the time delay would mean it won't get built in the immediate future.
The library is to receive a $2 million grant from the state, but only if it is completed and in operation by June 2010, Mr. Swint said.
Hugh Connoly, the chairman of the architectural selection committee, called Tuesday's decision disappointing.
Tuesday's meeting was a continuation of one last week in which preservation commission members criticized the design and its appropriateness in relation to other Augusta architecture.
Architect David R. Moore II said the 90,000-square-foot building was designed to be in keeping with surrounding buildings, with traditional architectural elements, and to be inviting.
Mr. Moore said 10 architectural styles within a block of the proposed site were taken into account.
Instead of replicating one of those styles, he said, the architects "felt like it was important to do a building that was going to speak to today, speak to the progressive nature of what libraries are today. And we wanted the building to be respectful of these other styles."
Historic board members said they wished they could have been involved in the process sooner.
Member Alan Venable said the building looked "severe and brutal."
"So inviting, and warm and welcoming isn't happening for me," he said.
Mr. Venable also questioned the black marble portion of the building.
"Where do we look for a big black monolith downtown?" he asked.
Mr. Moore said Mr. Venable raised a good point, but perhaps the problem lay in the limitations of the two-dimensional architectural renderings.
The architect also said changing the design would involve more than just sitting down with a red pencil and making some changes.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or email@example.com.