Like the places we live and work, the spaces where we learn are evolving with a growing emphasis on connectivity, collaboration and sustainable design. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has celebrated these principles by announcing the winners of its annual Library Building Awards and Education Facility Design Awards. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they're easy on the eye either.

According to the AIA, its Library Building Award is the only award that recognizes library structures as a whole and considers all aspects of their design. Decided by a jury of six, the 2018 instalment has recognized six new structures for excellence in architectural design, making use of large gathering spaces, and sustainable features.

The AIA describes recipient Austin Central Library as arguably the most daylit library in the US. Set for LEED Platinum certification, the building was designed by firms Lake Flato and Shepley Bulfinch and carefully considers the drought and water restrictions regularly imposed on the region. It uses a 373,000-gallon (1.5 million L) cistern to capture rainwater and feed it into the restrooms, surrounding landscape and vegetation on the roof.

The new Pico Branch Library in Santa Monica, California also harvests rainwater from the roof and feeds it into toilets below. Already LEED Platinum certified, the building features skylights to maximize light and deep overhangs and canopies to protect the windows from direct sun, negating the need for interior shading.

A lot of these themes carry over to the AIA's Education Facility Design Awards, which celebrates state-of-the-art education centers that enhance learning, establish a connection with the environment, balance function with aesthetics, and incorporate sustainability in a holistic way. Eight buildings received Awards of Excellence, while two received Awards of Merit.

While most of the winners can be found in the US, there are a couple of exceptions, with the Tsinghua Ocean Center in Shenzhen, China making the list, along with the Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre in Ontario, Canada. The latter incorporates a 27,000-sq ft (2,500-sq m) "learning factory," which serves as a versatile, multi-disciplinary project space surrounded by lounges, chalkboard walls and presentation areas.

The Chatham University Eden Hall Campus in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, includes enough classroom space for 250 students, a 350-seat amphitheater, and dining areas, all while featuring full-cycle water recycling, solar-powered net positive energy production and zero waste operations. The surrounding rain gardens, natural treatment wetlands and orchards winding through forests and meadows are a nice touch, too.

Have look through through our gallery to see the winning buildings in all their glory.

View gallery - 78 images