Pico Branch Library

Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc.

Owner: City of Santa Monica

Location: Santa Monica, California

A true community living room, Pico Branch Library in the heart of Santa Monica, California’s Virginia Avenue Park leverages its setting to encourage its use as both an educational resource and social gathering spot. The first new library built in the city in nearly 60 years, it was developed through an extensive community engagement and workshop process, during which the community’s desire to maximize green space quickly emerged.

"This is a brilliantly creative design that is truly original – it fits in well with the context, brings unusual forms, materials and patterns to the exterior, and creates an interior that is dynamic, fun, and filled with changing light patterns." ~ Jury statement  

The siting of the nearly 9,000-square-foot library preserves the existing green space and takes advantage of previously underused space to further activate the park’s event plaza. On Saturdays, its front door opens onto the local farmers market, a convergence that has spurred librarians to develop programs focusing on healthy eating. On its west side, the library leaps over a fire lane to accommodate a community room and amphitheater that provide additional connectivity to existing buildings that host programs for teenagers, seniors, and job seekers. A photovoltaic canopy spanning the fire lane increases walkability while offsetting the library’s carbon footprint.

Inside, the library takes an interactive approach to service. A less formal help station that eschews the concept of an imposing circulation desk greets patrons, and an automatic book sorter allows staff more time to interact directly with patrons. Since the library opened, investment in these strategies has attracted families who had not previously relied on institutional resources. In the first six months of operation, the library increased its membership by more than 1,200, and over 100,000 materials were checked out.

"An excellent example of a 'living room' type informal library setting." ~ Jury statement

Sustainable features can be found throughout the LEED Platinum certified library, chief among them daylight harvesting and passive shading. Skylights and the library’s carved ceiling help maximize light and define the building’s architectural identity, while deep overhangs and canopies protect glass from direct sun and eliminate the need for interior shades. Although the park itself had already implemented an effective water management and irrigation program, the design team saw an opportunity to deepen water management for municipal projects in Los Angeles County. Through its rainwater harvesting system, the library collects water from its roof and the roof of an adjacent building for storage in a 12,000-gallon cistern, where it is filtered and used to flush the library’s toilets.

Additional information

Acoustic: Veneklasen & Associates

Cost Estimating: C.P. O'Halloran

Engineer - Civil: KPFF

Engineer - Geotech: GeoDesign

Engineer - MEP: Glumac

Engineer - Structural: Thornton Tomasetti

Environmental Graphics: Newsom Design

Landscape Arch: Spurlock Poirier

Library: Linda Demmens

Lighting Design: Lighting Design Alliance

LEED: Brightworks

Surveyor: JMC2


Daria Pizzetta, FAIA (Chair), H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, LLC, New York City

Sara A. Bushong, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

Patrick Deaton, AIA, NCSU Libraries, Raleigh

Terri M. Luke, Wake County Public Library, Cary, North Carolina

Christopher Noll, AIA, Noll & Tam Architects, Berkeley

Lisa Lintner Valenzuela, Johnson County Public Library, Franklin, Indiana

Image credits

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Eric Staudenmaier

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Eric Staudenmaier

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Eric Staudenmaier

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Eric Staudenmaier