After more than two years of consultation with community members, and with a $7.2-million budget, Koning Eizenberg had several objectives for the Pico Branch Library project: public engagement, energy efficiency, use of healthy materials and indoor-outdoor connectivity. The building, after all, would serve as the crowning jewel on the four-hectare Virginia Avenue Park – the first LEED-certified park in the country – also designed by the 33-year-old firm.
Under distinctly angular rooflines, some of the building’s sections rise considerably above others. This and the facade’s perforated cladding hint that Pico is much more than the average library. In fact, the architects designed it to be an oasis of comfort, to gather community members for various occasions in this low-income area of sunny Santa Monica. The roof is coated in white to reflect heat (it also collects rainwater, on the 50-odd days a year it rains in the city, which is then filtered down to a 12,000 gallon cistern). And photovoltaic-equipped awnings span out like wings to create shade around the building. Marking the entrance, green fabric canopies shelter an outdoor space for social gatherings, including a picnic area for the popular weekend farmers market.
The concept of open access informs the overall design, both outside and in: walls of glass on three sides visually connect the interior to its central location in the park, though the architects were careful to reduce heat gain and glare. The single-storey, 731-square-metre library is flooded with diffused light, which refracts off the white, angular ceilings to create a glowing canopy, enhanced by the skewed placement of LED lighting fixtures.
An open-concept layout encourages exploration and interaction within the facility, while three glass-enclosed private rooms allow for studying and small group meetings. Across a photovoltaic-canopied fire lane that doubles as a walkway, the library’s 76-square-metre Annex building hosts public events such as reading groups, movie screenings and lectures; a moveable glass wall encourages passersby to also participate. Throughout the building, splashes of orange, green and blue, used for furnishings and wall accents, add visual interest in contrast with the mostly white interior. This vibrant energy completes a library that the architects describe as a “community living room.”