Los Gatos Library

The Civic Library as a Beacon for Knowledge Los Gatos, California / United States / 2012

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Nestled at the foot of a wooded hillside, the new Los Gatos Public Library is a key element within a master plan that strengthens the connection between the town’s civic center and historic Pageant Park. With its rectangular form, the two-story public library complements the adjacent 1960s Civic Center, an elegant masonry building split into quadrants and located partially below grade. “We wanted to create a connection with, and a contrast to, the existing 1960s-era Civic Center building,” notes Chris Noll, FAIA, Principal in Charge and co-founder of Noll & Tam.


The inspiration for the nearly 30,000-square-foot library is a lantern, a welcoming symbol to the community, and a visual play on the rich “enlightened” world within. During the day, glazing on the north and south walls invites sunlight in, creating a warm natural glow. At night, artificial illumination projects outward, turning the library into a beacon that anchors the neighborhood—a literal light in the woods. 


The 35-foot-high lobby atrium brings in plenty of daylight and features a two-story staircase with symbols of letters, phrases, musical notations, scientific formulas and information mapping etched into two-story translucent glass panels. Custom-designed wood veneer lighting fixtures by Miguel Herranz float in the central space. Visitors enter the children’s library under a glowing rainbow entry sign and find themselves beneath a 75-foot-long illuminated starry sky full of constellations, planets, and spaceships. The curved ceiling panel was fabricated directly from the architects’ digital 3D model and is installed below a ceiling painted yellow and uplighted by linear fixtures.


The library’s extensive glazing provides a sense of openness and transparency, while the exterior’s natural hues of concrete, stone, and wood-veneer panels reflect the colors of the surrounding environment. The facility more than doubles the space of its outdated 1960s predecessor.


The footprint of the new library was limited by the hillside behind and the desire to preserve mature trees on the site. This led to a simple rectangular form with pop-out design features on the second floor, free from ground constraints and to better capture views. Because of the simple shape of the building, a greater portion of the budget was available for higher-quality materials—exterior tile cladding, wood veneer panels, upscale lighting fixtures, and generous amounts of glass—meeting the client’s goal to create a civic showpiece.


The library offers spaces for teens, children, seniors, and history buffs. The cantilever over the entry plaza provides a treehouse-like hangout for teens on the second floor, with a large bay window for visibility. Like the children’s area, the teen area is acoustically separate from the rest of the library. The periodicals reading room has a dark wood-paneled clubby atmosphere complete with a fireplace, and the local history center features custom exhibit cases and a video screen to display artifacts of note.


 The interior’s maple ceilings reflect warm light into the core of the building. As dusk approaches, fluorescent ceiling fixtures gradually illuminate the expansive window walls, and the lighting from within shines off the glazed facade and exterior wood-veneer composite paneling. A stretch of glass around the exterior of the library at the second floor features integrated color-changing LEDs that subtly move from amber to blue to purple throughout the evening, further animating the building. The building is certified LEED Gold.

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    Nestled at the foot of a wooded hillside, the new Los Gatos Public Library is a key element within a master plan that strengthens the connection between the town’s civic center and historic Pageant Park. With its rectangular form, the two-story public library complements the adjacent 1960s Civic Center, an elegant masonry building split into quadrants and located partially below grade. “We wanted to create a connection with, and a contrast to, the existing 1960s-era Civic Center...

    Project details
    • Year 2012
    • Work finished in 2012
    • Client City of Los Gatos
    • Contractor Bogard Construction
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Government and institutional buildings / Libraries
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