Austin Central Library

Architect: Lake|Flato Architects + Shepley Bulfinch Joint Venture

Owner: City of Austin

Location: Austin, Texas

Project site: Brownfield

Building program type(s): Public Assembly - Library

Located in downtown Austin, Texas, and overlooking Shoal Creek and Lady Bird Lake, the new Austin Central Library is a building shaped by light and designed to respond to the context of its place. Before design began, the project team set aspirational sustainability and design metrics for the project. Two primary sustainability goals for the library were determined: It would be the most daylit library in the country, and it would serve as a water conservation model for buildings in the region.

The heart of the building is the six-story atrium, which provides daylight for more than 80 percent of regularly occupied spaces. The client envisioned an iconic, civic hub where locals could connect with their community by pursuing a variety of interests. The facility is based on flexible, blended spaces, including indoor collections and reading rooms, outdoor reading porches, maker spaces, outdoor dining, a technology center, café, bookstore, 350-seat event center, art gallery, demonstration kitchen, and 200-car parking garage. Integrated artworks, interspersed throughout the library, enhance this technology-focused environment by showcasing local and national artists. The unique rooftop pollinator garden and reading porches draw visitors to connect with nature. The library is a technology-rich innovation hub that promotes scholarly inquiry and cultural intelligence. Serving as the new western portal to downtown, the library establishes a major civic presence and community gathering space in the heart of Austin.

"The interior light-filled atrium has become a living room for the city, open to the community and all constituencies; the space is dynamic and offers many opportunities for citizens to find just the right spot to read, study, meet, or work." - Jury comment

A 373,000-gallon rainwater harvesting system, reused from existing infrastructure, provides water for landscape irrigation, restroom plumbing fixtures, and the landscaped rooftop pollinator garden. The Austin Central Library is the first city of Austin public project to achieve LEED Platinum certification. It is a model for sustainable resource use and library efficiency while promoting visceral connections to collections, history, culture, and place.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2013

Year of substantial project completion: 2017

Gross conditioned floor area: 198,588 sq ft

Number of stories: 6

Project climate zone: ASHRAE 2A

Annual hours of operation: 3,245

Site area: 87,376 sq ft

Project site context/setting: urban

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $89,045,445

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 1,200,144

Project team

Joint Venture Architect: Lake|Flato + Shepley Bulfinch

Acoustic Consultant: Dickensheets Design Associates

ADA Consultant: Accessology

Building Enclosure: Simpson Gumpertz & Hefer

Construction Manager: Hensel Phelps

Cost Estimator: Eudacorp

Daylighting: Integrated Design Lab

Electric Lighting: Clanton and Associates

Electrical Service: Harutunian Engineering

Energy Consultant: Supersymmetry USA

Engineer - Structural: Datum Engineers

Engineer - Structural: P.E. Structural Consultants

Engineer - Mechanical: Jose I. Guerra

Engineer - Plumbing: Encotech Engineering Consultants

Engineer - Civil: Urban Design Group

Environmental Consultant: Baer Engineering & Environmental

Fire Protection: Jensen Hughes

Food Service Consultant: Cosper & Associates

Furniture Procurement: West East Design Group

Interior Design: Shepley Bulfinch

Landscape Architect: Coleman and Associates

LEED Consultant: HOLOS Collaborative

Parking Consultant: Datum Gojer Engineers

Permitting: Austin Permitting

Photovoltaic Consultant: Integral Group

Public Art: Celia Munoz

Security Consultant: Kroll Security Group

Sustainability Consultant: Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

Traffic: HVJ Associates

Water Consultant: Biohabitats

Wayfinding: FD2S


Robert Berkebile, FAIA, BNIM Architects

Roy Decker, FAIA, Duvall Decker Architects

William Horgan, Assoc. AIA, Grimshaw

Vivian Loftness, FAIA, Carnegie Mellon University

Andrea Love, AIA, Payette

Image credits

AustinCentralLibrary_1 crop

Nic Lehoux


Lara Swimmer

Exterior of the Austin Central Library from across Lady Bird Lake

Casey Dunn

Teen Space at the Austin Central Library

Nic Lehoux


Lara Swimmer