Santa Teresa Branch Library

This new branch library exemplifies the Citys desire for a fresh approach to library design, enhancing the user experience by evoking a lively private sector retail ambiance while simultaneously providing a comfortable residential atmosphere. The design of the building incorporates a high level of transparency with library operations visible to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic and articulates the library as an approachable community destination rather than a traditional book fortress.

The library, sited along a thoroughfare, is located between a residential neighborhood and a low-density commercial area. Vehicular access issues from the thoroughfare mandated that the entryway be located at the back end of the site. In order to create a distinct presence for this community building along the main street, the team designed the South elevation as a large window; the expansive glass faade allows for a strong visual connection from the street, and provides passersby with views into the library. A two-story sculptural glass tower and marble wall mark the main entrance to the building on the North side.

The outdoor public space along the east side of the building features an exposed steel overhang which reinforces the pedestrian path that links the main entryway to the parking lot and the rest of the site as well as art installations, planters, and views into the library.

This new one-story building better complements the residential scale of the area and is more operationally efficient than the outdated two-story library that it replaced. The basic architectural composition of the new library is about simplicity and modernism at a grander scale with the larger goal of creating a monumental building that embodies both functional and aesthetic longevity. Through the economy of using simple architectural forms, the design team was able to provide a higher level of detail and finishes. The key building materials are glass and steel, interspersed with stucco. Blue glass accents and landscape features provide pops of color against the canvas of the predominately white structure. In a playful gesture, expressionistic polycarbonate lanterns extend from the top of the formalistic glass entry tower; the tower and lanterns light up at night, shining like a beacon and creating an inviting focal point.

The library interiors feature high ceilings and abundant daylighting with large window walls and skylights. The materials palette includes cork tile flooring, custom curved perforated metal ceilings, and exposed structural elements such as steel columns and beams. Blue polycarbonate panels frame two large skylights, marking the entrance to the Childrens Area.

The interior spaces of the library draw from retail merchandising display principles and employ residential scaled components to create a comfortable and welcoming community destination. The latest releases in technology and literature are showcased in the Marketplace in the librarys foyer, and refreshments and lively hang out space are offered in the Internet caf. User-friendly self-checkout machines replace the customary circulation desk. The Living Room a warm, welcoming reading lounge features a fireplace and looks out onto the surrounding hills. The program also includes a 100-seat community room, a technology center, and segregated quiet rooms for study and reading.

A key programmatic challenge was providing appropriate zones for different age groups within the open and airy space. To address this issue, the design team created separate teen and family areas; the Childrens Area features brightly colored furnishings and play structures, while the Teen Area provides soft seating as well as work tables for group or individual study.


Project Type


290 International Circle, San Jose, 95119,