Special Commendation: Design for Change

La Selva Beach Library

Architect: Jayson Architecture

Project Location: La Selva Beach, California

Photographer: David Wakely Photography

The La Selva Beach Library is an exemplary example of a critical community building typology, the small branch library. This type of library has a long history in America, dating back to the single room Carnegie libraries built at in the late 1800s, and still found throughout the country. While large urban branches serve an important purpose, the mission of public libraries would be incomplete without thriving neighborhood branches like the La Selva Beach Library.

“A solid sustainable transformation effort to renovate rather than replace – this project revealed the potential that was there in an incredible way.” – 2022 Design Awards Jury

Design for Integration

The La Selva Beach Library renovation is a revitalization of a small, well loved, and dilapidated coastal library. The library has been transformed to maximize programmatic flexibility, reflect the character of the coastal community, and serve as a beacon of civic pride. The small footprint belies the large impact
of the library.

Design for Equitable Communities

One of the strengths of the Library is its adjacency to several other core community assets that serve the small town. Perhaps most significant is the immediate connection to the town community center which host large events, classes for the public, and summer activities for children. The library also is the immediate neighbor of the fire station, and firemen are often present to join community events. If there is an emergency the gathering point is the patio shared by the Library, Community Center, and Fire station. The library is a part of this critical cultural and community support nexus.

Design for Ecosystems

While the limited scope of the project inherently does not have a significant effect on the surrounding ecosystem in either a positive or negative manner, by virtue of renovating the existing library rather than building new the project has a much more limited impact on the environment. As a renovation, the construction duration is shortened, and the amount of exterior work is limited. Disruption to birds and other wildlife that live in the surrounding open space and traverse the lightly developed neighborhood is minimized.

Design for Water

The La Selva Beach Library renovation replaced aging high flow fixtures with new low flow plumbing fixtures throughout. This includes new fixtures in the public restroom as well as the employee break area. Stormwater Is all handled onsite through the large green space to the north of the library, and the new permeable pavers installed at the main library patio and the south entry patio.

Design for Economy

The material palette is simple, with consistent use of maple on the interior, a relatively affordable wood species. Accents and points of interest were achieved with upholstery fabric and wall coverings, and high-cost material choices were avoided.

Passive strategies were emphasized over expensive and complicated systems. The uninsulated envelope was filled with fiberglass batts at the walls, and rigid insulation at the roofs. A solid partition dividing the interior was removed and replaced with glass to improve daylight penetration. At the tall north facing clerestory, double paned insulated operable windows were introduced, allowing for passive ventilation on hot days.

Design for Energy

The focus of the design was on passive strategies for daylight, heating, and cooling. Existing uninsulated walls were infilled with fiberglass insulation and rigid insulation was added at the roof. These improvements to the thermal envelope dramatically increased the performance of the building, and reduced the dependence on the heating system for all but the coldest of winter days. In the hot summer months, the library is passively ventilated through operable windows at the north facing clerestory. Hot air which has accumulated in the high ceiling areas is ventilated through the stack effect, without any need for mechanical ventilation.

Design for Well-being

The La Selva Beach Library is designed to foster the well-being of the community through embracing a connection to the ocean and the outdoors. The small seaside library is a block from a cliff overlooking the beach which serves as an informal community gathering location to watch the sunset. The building is well located to encourage people to stop by the library on their daily walk to the beach, encouraging a routine of library use and pedestrian transit. The patio allows patrons to take a book outside on a nice day and breath the sea air.

Design for Resources

The existing structure and footprint have been preserved saving significant resources for framing, foundation, and other materials that were redirected away from the landfill, and new virgin resources did not need to be consumed for the project. While the small scope, scale, and budget did not warrant or accommodate any high-tech/high performance achievements, the project succeeds by following the first principles of green design: Renovate rather than replace, improve the envelope rather than the systems, and most importantly implement good design that the community will value and preserve.

Design for Change

The La Selva Beach Library has been re-envisioned as an extremely flexible and adaptable space. Knowing the needs of the community will likely change in the coming decades, the layout of the library was designed carefully to allow for a multitude of different uses. The two public rooms are designed without a single fixed freestanding element. Nearly all of the shelving has been pushed to the perimeter of the library, clearing up the floor space. The shelving that does exist in the middle of the floor area is placed on wheels, and can easily be moved to the side for an event, or removed from the space entirely if necessary. The circulation desk is also movable, should the library service model change in the future. In addition, all furniture is easily moveable, in particular the rolling & stacking study tables in the children’s area. Lastly, the separation between the two rooms of the library is an operable glass partition, and can be completely opened to combine the library into a single large room. While the future in unknown, the La Selva Library has been designed to accommodate all manner of future uses without having to be completed reimagined or reconfigured.

Design for Discovery

The La Selva Beach is the first completed project of six branches for the Santa Cruz Public Libraries system. We have applied the knowledge learned from working with the library on this first branch to our approach to each subsequent branch. In particular, we have refined our approach to furniture selections, and the design of flexible meeting & community spaces. A library system is complex and constantly adapting to meet the needs of the community it serves. Working on multiple branches within the system has created an environment of constructive learning, and a focus on creating synergies between each branch in the system.

AIA California
AIA California
AIA California is dedicated to serving its members, and uniting all architecture professionals in the design of a more just, equitable and resilient future through advocacy, education and political action. It celebrates more than 75 years of service and, today, is composed of more than 11,000 members across the state.

We use cookies to personalize content, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic.
By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies.