Half Moon Bay Library

Architect: Noll & Tam Architects

Owner: City of Half Moon Bay

Location: Half Moon Bay, California

Flexibility is key for this new library, which operates in a 270-square-mile service area along California’s coast in San Mateo County. As the primary community facility for the large region, the library was designed to meet the needs of a diverse population, including immigrant and non-English-speaking residents.

With no surfboards or wave motifs to be found, the design evokes a refined coastal palette through simple, natural materials such as reclaimed wood, copper, and rough stone. Throughout, natural light and views of nature draw the outdoors to the interior. An exposed wood and metal composite roof structure tops the second floor to create a dramatic room that recalls the rigging of a ship as it looks out onto the Pacific Ocean.

To better serve the needs of its clientele, the library conducted a rigorous assessment of its collections and circulation. As a result, the library decided to reduce the amount of physical materials on the shelves to offer space for other critical programmatic materials. The reinvented collection now reflects the needs of the community and includes an expanded DVD and media collection, a greater number of materials in Spanish, and resources for literacy development. Additional materials are shared throughout the county-wide library system, so users still have access to a broader range of materials on short notice.

Providing access to emerging technology is a prominent element of the library system’s mission and is particularly important among recent immigrants and seasonal agricultural workers. Desktop computers can be found throughout the library, and laptop computers and GoPro cameras can be checked out. Patrons also have access to a makerspace that features sewing, embroidery, and button-making machines as well as a 3D printer, robots, and a virtual reality system.

The library’s final program and budget were developed through intense community input and with consideration to a heated California construction market. Local support was critical to the project’s success, and the team initiated a community engagement process at the outset. All concepts and revisions were illustrated throughout the process, giving all stakeholders an opportunity to see how the design had evolved and responded to their input.

Additional information

Architecture and Interior Design: Noll & Tam Architects

Engineering - Civil: BKF Engineers

Engineering - Structural: Mar Structural Design

Engineering - MEP: Integral Group

Landscape Architecture: Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey, Inc.

Lighting: Integral Group (lighting)

AV/Acoustics/Telecom/Security: Charles M Salter Associates, Inc.

Commissioning: Guttmann & Blaevoet

Spec Writing: Richard C. Hubble

Cost Estimating: Oppenheim Lewis, Inc.

Signage/Graphics: Wendy Wilsher

Contractor: BHM Construction, Inc.


Charles A. Higueras, FAIA (Chair), San Francisco Public Works, San Francisco, California

Becca Cavell, FAIA, Bora Architects, Portland, Oregon

Brian Chase, Director, Normal Public Library, Normal, Illinois

Jill Friedmann, Assistant Dean, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona

Clem Guthro, Orange County, California

Charles Wray, AIA, Quinn Evans, Richmond, Virginia

Image credits

Half Moon Bay Library-03

Anthony Lindsey Photography

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Anthony Lindsey Photography

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Anthony Lindsey Photography

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Anthony Lindsey Photography

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Anthony Lindsey Photography