Founded in 1910, Manhattan Beach Library is one of the oldest continuous libraries in the Los Angeles Public Library system. As Executive Architect, we partnered with Design Architect Johnson Favaro to build a structure that meets the evolving needs of its surrounding community—and achieved LEED Gold certification in the process. The updated Manhattan Beach Library was designed to reflect both its coastal setting and to capture the character of Manhattan Beach. HED worked to design and engineer the structure’s exterior skin.
The resulting double-glazed facade acts as a heat recovery system to substantially reduce maintentance cost, and was a significant contributor to the library’s LEED Gold Certification.The 21,500 square foot, two-story facility boasts dramatic, floor-to-ceiling glass walls framing Pacific Ocean seascapes. An intimate meeting space accommodates small gatherings and community events, and includes an advanced audiovisual system with remote touch panel controls and a kitchen. State-of-the-art technology, dedicated space for children and families and an adult reading area create an inspiring learning environment. The children’s area includes an interactive learning wall, open reading space for families, four early-literacy computers and eight children’s-access computers. An undulating ceiling, cascading staircase, and sculptural reception desk add energy, movement and visual interest.
The new 21,500 SF library replaces a 12,300 square foot library completed in 1975 owned and operated by the Los Angeles County Library on a site within the civic center in Manhattan Beach, CA. The library sits adjacent to and south of city hall. The civic center plaza, city police and fire facility sit adjacent to and east of the library site. The site offers sweeping views of the Santa Monica Bay and Pacific Ocean.
The footprint of the new library is less than half than that of the old library and frees up over half the site for a new small park. This open space sits between the library and the civic center plaza. Gently sloped, it is a modestly scaled amphitheater space in which to stage outdoor events related to library programs and other community events.
The library accommodates adult reading areas, a teen area and a juvenile/early childhood area, a homework center, group study rooms, a 100 seat community meeting room, express-service checkout machines and automated materials handling equipment. The community room faces onto the pocket park/amphitheater space and is available for community use outside of library hours. The children’s library resides at the ground floor directly off the main library entrance, overlooks and opens out onto the new park. Adult and young adult reading and service areas locate at the second floor. A seating area with fireplace at the southwest corner of the second floor offers a warm place to be on cool mornings and evenings, overcast and rainy days.
The architecture of the building captures the changing quality of light that characterizes the environment of the local coastal climate. From the inside maximum transparency at the second floor provides uninterrupted views out creating a direct and unmediated experience of the surrounding neighborhood, natural environment and climatic conditions of the coast. At the ground floor transparency offers a direct connection between the library, the new pocket park and Highland Avenue. From Highland Avenue this transparency affords visible and functional relationship between the life of the street and the library within. The activity of the library brings life to the street and vice versa. From the outside the glass offers varying qualities of transparency, reflectivity and opacity, alternately reflecting the sky and revealing the interior in constantly changing combinations.
Wood surfaces throughout the ground floor create a warm and informal environment. The composition of desks and counters reflects the casual style of life at the beach and is intended to capture the knock-about handmade character of ephemeral beach structures —guard stations, surf shacks, skate ramps and bon fires. Bold colorful graphics reflect the character of surf shops, bike shops, food joints and other places that make life at the beach so quintessentially southern Californian. The palette changes at the second floor where colors and textures dial down to reflect the muted colors and textures of the natural environment of the coast— the beiges, grays and silvery greens of sand, driftwood and beach grasses.