The vision for the Milpitas Public Library was to turn a cherished 13,000 SF grammar school into a modern 60,000 SF library to anchor the Midtown redevelopment area. The design balances the modest 1916 building with bold new elements to create a striking new civic landmark. Massing, materials, and connections respect the historic school while incorporating it into a cohesive new signature building for the community. For users the experience is seamless, with clear wayfinding and logical organization of library functions to support efficient operations.
Architecturally, the new buildings blend of contemporary and historic has set the tone for subsequent development on Main Street. The plan geometry promotes the historic building, placing it at the center of a cohesive overall design. Two new wings are set back from the historic faade, with gently folded rooflines that float above the historic building and echo the rhythm of the hills to the east. Connections between old and new are kept light through the use of glass at all points of contact. The new wings faades combine plaster and glass in a distinct yet complementary way to the historic facade. A new landmark tower in the south wing provides a highly-visible landmark that becomes a glowing beacon for the community at night.
Rehabilitation of the original grammar school building restored materials and finishes, and further secured and enhanced significant historic features. The integrity of the historic exterior faades is maintained, even where they are now interior walls. A north-south circulation axis was created through the school building by converting exterior window bays into doorways; the experience for visitors moving between the original building and the new wings is distinct, yet seamless. A new translucent tensile structure encloses the courtyard while maintaining the light, open feel of the original outdoor space. Most major activity spaces are retained not only in their original configuration, but also in compatible use; the original classrooms are now computer lab and study spaces, and the auditorium became the librarys large program space. The historic street entrance is retained as a ceremonial entry for special events, while a new larger entrance in the south wing accommodates day-to-day library visitors.
Perhaps most significant is the transformation of the historic building into a modern library without compromising operational efficiency or sacrificing public service. The new Milpitas Public Library was an instant success, drawing more than 8,000 customers on the day of its soft opening. It is now among the highest-circulating libraries in the state.