Austin Central Library
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.