Austin Central Library

Architect: : Lake Flato + Shepley Bulfinch

Owner:  City of Austin

Location: Austin

A technologically rich hub for innovation and cultural intelligence, the Austin Central Library has created a framework for lifelong learning that bolsters a more resilient community. Situated in downtown Austin, Texas, where it overlooks Shoal Creek and Lady Bird Lake, the $120 million library has become a dominant civic presence and regular community gathering space.

"This is a model of library as community center offering so much variety." ~ Jury statement

Arguably the most daylit library in the nation, the nearly 200,000-square-foot building is defined by a light-soaked, six-story atrium surrounded by the collections and event space. By prioritizing flexible blended spaces, the design team delivered a model underlining the importance of sustainable resource use and library efficiency that promotes deep connections with the library’s collections and culture at large. Some of the distinct elements include a series of outdoor reading porches that overlook the water, maker space, a cookbook-themed coffee shop, demonstration kitchen, and a 350-seat special events center. Throughout, works by local and national artists enrich the tech-forward environment, among them a multistory sculptural clock featuring the likeness of several grackles, one of the most prevalent bird species found in Austin.

The project takes full advantage of Austin’s investment in revitalizing its west downtown and the recently designated Seaholm EcoDistrict, an 85-acre former brownfield site being transformed into a vibrant urban hub. The library offers direct connection to the street as well as to the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail. Space to park more than 150 bicycles is available, and the library’s underground parking garage boasts 200 spaces.

"The atrium ties it all together bringing in natural light, exciting circulation and a sense of orientation.  The porch rooftop is a lovely, lovely benefit library users can access." ~ Jury statement

On track for LEED Platinum certification, the building respects the library system’s desire to be good stewards of water resources in an area of Texas that regularly experiences drought and is subjected to water restrictions. A 373,000-gallon cistern captures roof rainwater and HVAC condensate, and provides water in the restrooms as well as irrigation for the landscape and vegetated roof. The system itself is a repurposed underground vault that was unearthed during an early site visit.

Additional information

Acoustic Consultant: Dickensheets Design Associates

ADA Consultant: Accessology

Artificial Lighting: Clanton and Associates

Building Enclosure: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Construction Manager: Hensel Phelps

Cost Estimator: Eudacorp

Daylighting: Integrated Design Lab

Electrical Service: Harutunian Engineering Incorporated

Energy: Supersymmetry USA

Engineer -Structural: Datum Engineers, PE Structural Consultants

Engineer - Mechanical: Jose I. Guerra Inc.

Engineer - Electrical: Jose I. Guerra Inc.

Engineer - Plumbing: Encotech Engineering

Engineer - Civil: Urban Design Group

Environmental: Baer Engineering & Environmental

Food Service Consultant: Cosper & Associates Inc.

Fire Protection: Jensen Hughes

Furniture Procurement: West East Deign Group

Interior Design: Shepley Bulfinch

Landscape Architect: Coleman and Associates

LEED Consultant: Holos Collaborative

Parking: Parking Planners

Permitting: Austin Permitting

Photovoltaic: Integral Group

Public Art: Celia Munoz

Security Consultant: BLW Security Group

Sustainability: Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

Traffic: HVJ Associates

Water: Biohabitats

Wayfinding: FD2S


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

Austin Central Library-03_web

Andrea Calo

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Nic Lehoux

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Nic Lehoux

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Nic Lehoux

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Casey Dunn