Berkeley Branch Libraries: A Case Study Ensemble Tour!

Come see how three architecture firms approached the same project type, same city requirements, with different solutions addressing varying needs, site conditions and project requirements. The AIA East Bay Design Tours committee has organized an architectural tours event for architects and the public. Join us on Saturday, November 2, 2013 for a tour of three recently renovated Berkeley Libraries: the North Branch, Claremont and South Branches.

Saturday, November 2, 2013
Begins at The North Branch: 1170 The Alameda, Berkeley, CA (see below for complete schedule and addresses)
$5 AIA members, $10 Guests

Click here to register.

We encourage attendees to bike or carpool for this event. Click here for our GroupCarPool signup.

2.25 CES Lus

(c) David Wakely

(c) David Wakely

North Branch:

Led by Douglas Tom, FAIA, Tom Eliot Fisch

Architectural Resources Group in association with Tom Eliot Fisch was selected to rehabilitate and expand the Berkeley North Branch Library, a Berkeley City Landmark designed by architect James Plachek in the California Spanish style and constructed in 1936.  Maintaining the majority of its historic features, the library is a cherished centerpiece of the Solano Avenue neighborhood and the busiest of Berkeley’s four branch libraries.

The 5,000 sf one-story building was expanded with a two-story, 4,200 sf addition. The LEED Silver project restores the historic central rotunda and reading rooms, including decorative finishes and original furnishings and adds staff work areas, a teen library, a community room, accessible restroom and other support spaces in the new addition.

(c) David Wakely

South Branch:

Led by Avery Moore, AIA, Principal, Field Paoli Architects

The South Branch Library occupies a small corner lot in an active Berkeley neighborhood.  At just under 8,700 SF, the building program includes both the Main Library and the popular Tool Lending Library which first operated in a trailer on this site in 1979.


The new library is designed to open out to the community through oversized aluminum windows set in cedar siding with steel trellises overhead.  A curving tile wall along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard announces the new community room.  Drought tolerant landscaping includes a small Zen Garden visible to the adjacent Thai Buddhist Temple as well as library users.

At the center of the Main Library, a double-height browsing room brings in ample daylight and natural ventilation through operable clerestory windows. Reclaimed cypress wood arches mark entrances to individual reading rooms and an enlarged staff area.  The fully accessible library provides ample space for expanded media and book collections, new computer stations and a choice of window seat or lounge chair. It is also energy efficient and on track for LEED Gold certification.

Artwork at the South Branch include a ceramic sculpture by Stephen DeStaebler from the original 1961 library and commissioned stained glass and copper mosaic installations by Gina Dominguez.



(c) John Sutton


Led by Lauren MacColl Maass, AIA LEED AP BD+C, Associate Vice President, Gould Evans

The most recent renovation and addition re-establishes the significance of the original 1920’s structure while installing state-of-the-art equipment that brings the building into 21st century standards. The Tudor-style library in Berkeley is a cherished neighborhood center originally designed to blend in both scale and character with the homes around it. James W. Plachek, who also designed the Berkeley Central building downtown, gave the library an Old World charm still apparent today.

Opening up the 1970’s addition with a new glazed dormer introduces controlled daylight and reveals the library’s activities to the surrounding neighborhood. A clear, accessible and welcoming new entry marked by a glass canopy removes previous ambiguity to the library’s entrance. Relocation of the Service Desk facilitates better flow between the two wings of the building and a new “flex-space” in the Children’s Wing permits programs to occur without disrupting patrons reading quietly in the shelving area. New lighting, finishes and furnishings enhance the historic character of the 1920’s reading room. The project incorporates a range of sustainability measures and is certified LEED Silver.

Tour schedule:

10am: Meet at the North Branch Library:
1170 The Alameda Berkeley, CA 94707

After that, we’ll continue to the South Branch Library:
1901 Russell Street at MLK, Berkeley, CA 94703

And we’ll end with the Claremont Branch:
2940 Benvenue, Berkeley, CA 94705

**Please note that parking can be difficult in these neighborhoods. We encourage attendees to bike or carpool. If you are able to participate in a carpool, please sign-up here:

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