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New San Diego Central Library – a Contemporary Classic

Rendering courtesy of Marc Perrault, Rob Wellington Quigley/ Tucker Sadler Architects, Inc., JV.

The voice of the people was definitely heard when it comes to the dome-shaped design of the new Central Library building currently under construction in downtown San Diego, California. More than a decade ago, the City sought public opinion on design of the new structure and the citizens responded with their wish to see a building representative of a historical theme in the City’s architecture – the dome. The dome-shaped administration building and California Building, both located in Balboa Park, serve as the inspiration for the design of the Central Library building’s dome.

This particular dome does deviate structurally from the traditional dome, essentially an upside down bowl. The library building’s dome is described as a sliced orange with each of its “slices” tilted to help it fully receive the morning light. The tilts also help block out the afternoon light which can often cause a hampering glare.

The dome’s slices and its sunlight-blocking tilts characterize it as a lattice-shade structure, which will be beneficial to the glassed-ceiling and walled reading room that will be built directly underneath the dome. The crossed pattern of the lattice is a distinguishing feature of the building and creates a glowing effect at night when lit from inside.

The nine-story, nearly 500,000-square-foot building will not only house the actual library on floors one through five, but also house a charter school with a student body of more than 500. The San Diego Unified School District has leased the sixth and seventh floors for the next 40 years, so the school will have its own designated access to the building and designated elevators. The penthouse floors, which include a glass walled reading room, art gallery and sculpture court, warming kitchen, terraces, circular meeting room, rare books room, and California heritage room will be housed on the eighth and ninth floors and are open to the public. Citizens had requested that the penthouse level and its special amenities be accessible to everyone regardless of income level. The ground floor will house an auditorium and outdoor garden courtyard with large glass doors opening to the library and auditorium, connecting the three areas for guests to enjoy. The shaded courtyard will serve as a large, adaptable space to host brown-bag concerts, author talks, and civic events, as well as more intimate gatherings. Designed according to an innovative Sun Envelope Study, which ensures the optimal amount of sunlight each day, the garden is sure to be a favorite outdoor meeting and gathering place for all San Diegans. Upon construction, the facility will apply for a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

When construction is complete, the building that houses San Diego’s new Central Library will surely stand out with its distinctive design and unique style and the citizens of San Diego can hold their heads high knowing that their voices were heard and their ideas were realized.