LocationSan Francisco, CA, USA
ArchitectFougeron Architecture / Group 4 Architecture
Public ArtworkEric Powell
ClientSan Francisco Public Library
Construction ManagerSan Francisco Department of Public Works
From the architect. This design for this branch library won a national competition held by the San Francisco Public Library in 2002 and construction was completed in September 2009. Located on an Ocean Avenue corner lot, the design consists of a main reading room, children’s reading room, community room, staff support space and an outdoor garden. Adhering to the urban grid, the L-shaped scheme allows the main reading room and community room volumes to flank and define a central courtyard. The exterior has two major architectural elements: an egg-shaped room and the high canopy roof.
The most striking element of the front façade, positioned prominently at the corner, is an egg-shaped children’s reading room with a large, bench-seat window that puts its user’s activities on display and encourages use of the library by younger patrons. The children’s room is capped by a high canopy roof, extending over the entry and the lower community room volume along Ocean Avenue. This roof strengthens the civic presence of the one-story structure, given the context of taller adjacent buildings. Its sky-blue underside is up-lit, providing unobtrusive security lighting to the entry and sidewalk below, while the height of the canopy is designed to optimize future photovoltaic panels.
Inside, the spaces are designed to fuse historic interpretations of libraries as “temples of knowledge” with more common associations of books with the marketplace popularized by Borders and the like. In the main reading room, floor to ceiling books line the walls; regular circulation fills the lower shelves, while shelving above seven feet are filled with old books and artifacts donated by members of the community. The sloped ceiling of the space is capped with giant skylights coaxing sunlight deep into the room. Facing the courtyard, mahogany-clad carrels offer quite, intimate spaces to read and relax. Benches are built into the glass edges creating a simple and elegant relationship between courtyard and interior spaces.
Most importantly, this new branch library facilitates a central gathering space and enhances access to important resources for the neighborhood, while playing an essential role in the revitalization of Ocean Avenue. The robust, light-filled, and sustainable architectural design highlights the virtues and aspirations of this community: valuing the accessibility of knowledge and education to everyone.
High roof canopy. The double roof along Ocean Avenue effectively shields the south-facing program room volume below from excess heat gain. Its orientation and high position is designed and intended to house future photovoltaic panels.
Courtyard. The courtyard is strategically located adjacent to a future playground for greater aggregate outdoor space to be enjoyed by everyone in the community. The building flanks the courtyard, shielding it from street noise and prevailing winds. Also, native landscaping is used for community education as well as reduced irrigation needs.
Natural daylight. The main reading room is flooded with ample natural light primarily from three large south-facing light monitors. The interior ceiling is precisely sculpted and sloped for maximum admission of sunlight with even distribution. Overhangs at the reading carrels as well as at the street facing windows are calculated to shade interior spaces from excessive heat gain in the summer while allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the interior space during the winter. These architectural features reduce the need for artificial lighting and raise the comfort level of patrons.
Efficient artificial lighting. The required artificial lighting primarily uses high efficiency, dimmable, T-5 fluorescent tubes. The lighting is directed upward to the light colored ceiling, which reflects the light back down for better color rendition. Commonly found incandescent recessed cans are eliminated and the dimmable ballasts allow staff to adjust light levels as necessary for greater energy savings.
Heating system. Hydronic radiant baseboard heaters allow for the elimination of ductwork. and are typically hidden within the bookshelf kicks. The energy usage is significantly lower and more efficient than the traditional forced air system. The quality of heat is also more uniform and comfortable for the patrons.
Operable glazing for ventilation. The long L-shaped volumes allow cross ventilation from the streets to the courtyard through operable glazing. Also, within the main reading room, operable glazing is located low while automatic louvers are located high within the skylight volume to facilitate stack ventilation. Therefore, the naturally occurring pressure differential is utilized to expel excess heat without the need for air conditioning.
Low VOC & sustainable finishes. Every effort has been made to ensure the highest interior air quality and responsible use of finish materials. The interior paint and other interior finishes are all specified as low VOC. Wall and ceiling insulation is formaldehyde free denim, and floor finishes are linoleum.