Billie Jean King Main Library

Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Owner:  City of Long Beach

Location: Long Beach, CA

Connecting the past with the present, the Billie Jean King Main Library in downtown Long Beach, California, welcomes nearly 1,000 patrons each day who engage in learning opportunities that forge new bonds among the community. Adjacent to the city’s new civic center and historic Lincoln Park, the 93,500-square-foot library continues the Long Beach Public Library’s 100-year commitment to equitable access to information and collaboration in a truly innovative space.

"This is a beautiful project with "no back" - all sides are thoughtful and responsive. The client and programming needs seem to have been met if not exceeded." Jury comment

The new library was constructed above an existing concrete subterranean parking garage. Slightly raised, as if on a dais, it is tucked into the intersection of two major thoroughfares and surrounded by busy pedestrian sidewalks. The library’s adjacency to the Los Angeles Metro blue line further increases its connectivity and access.

Sustainable and aesthetically pleasing, the library’s superstructure incorporates wood, steel, and concrete, with each material employed strategically throughout to reap the benefits of its properties. The team took great care to ensure seamless transitions between the differing materials where they connect. Glue-laminated timber girders coupled with plywood decking were selected for the floor system due to both its character and to lessen the load on the garage below. The building’s envelope is composed of a curtainwall system of aluminum and glass that maximizes daylight while mitigating glare.

"This is a stunning building....The commitment to heavy timber for structural purposes was clearly embraced as an opportunity to create a unique civic structure in a prominent location downtown. The way the building responds to its surroundings, orientation, and programming has resulted in an elegant, restrained, thoughtful, intricate yet refined, warm, welcoming building that is "of its time" and is like no other civic building on this scale I have ever experienced." Jury comment

Visitors access the library through entries located at the north and south, turning the library’s lobby into an active link to Lincoln Park. The interior presents a welcoming and flexible atmosphere, and all spaces are organized into discrete areas that maximize the square footage and enhance accessibility for both visitors and staff. A variety of spaces, including group and solo study areas and a technology-driven makerspace, are equipped to serve the many needs of the Long Beach community. A central atrium enhances the open interior by drawing in ample natural light, while the exposed timber system lends a tranquil air to all spaces.

Currently targeting LEED certification, the team deployed a number of sustainable strategies. Chief among them is a photovoltaic array that spans the library’s entire roof and contributes significantly to the energy production used by the civic center’s entire campus.

Additional information

Architecture: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Leadership Team

Paul Danna, FAIA, Design Partner

Jose Palacios, AIA, Design Director

Jed Zimmerman, AIA, LEED AP, DBIA, Managing Director and Project Manager

Project Team

Michael Mann, FAIA, Managing Director

Masis Mesropian, AIA, Senior Designer

M. Zarmine Nigohos, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Project Architect

Steve Zimmerman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Senior Technical Designer

Roshanak Mostaghim, LEED AP BD+C, Technical Designer

Wilfredo Lima, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Technical Designer

Houston Drum, AIA, LEED AP

Frank Castillo

Jordan Gearhart

Isshin Morimoto

Joanna Lam

Jennifer Williams, ASLA, LEED AP

Sally Drum

Interior Designer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

David Renken, AIA, LEED AP, Interior Designer

Structural Engineer:

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Mark Sarkisian, PE, SE, LEED AP, Structural Partner

Eric Long, PE, SE, Structural Director

Abel Díaz Valdés, PE, SE, ICCP, Structural Engineer

Andy Krebs, PE, SE, Structural Engineer

John Gordon, SE, CEng MIStructE, Structural Engineer

Benton Johnson, PE, SE, Structural Engineer

Civil Engineer:

KPFF Consulting Engineers

MEP Engineer:

Syska Hennessy Group

Sustainable Design: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Rebecca Delany, PE, LEED AP, Sustainability Lead

Arathi Gowda, AIA, AICP, LEED AP BD+C, Sustainability Lead

Environmental Graphics: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Lonny Israel, Graphic Design Director

Dan Maxfield, Graphic Designer

Kacey Bills, Graphic Designer

Library Programming: Linda Demmers

Landscape: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

Lighting: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design

Acoustics: Newson Brown Acoustics

Fire/Life Safety: Jensen Hughes

Vertical Transportation: Syska Hennessy Group

Roofing/Waterproofing: Curtainwall Design Consulting

Wood Scientist: Ron Anthony

Parking: International Parking Design

Operations and Maintenance: Johnson Controls

General Contractor: Clark Construction Group

Project Financier: Plenary Group


Jennifer Yoos, FAIA (Chair), VJAA, Minneapolis, MN

Ann Beha, FAIA, Ann Beha Architects,  Boston, MA

Erin Sterling Lewis, AIA, in situ studio, Raleigh, North Carolina

Kimberly Johnson, Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Clint S. Rudy, Suffolk Public Library, Suffolk, Virginia

Gail Scanlon, Philips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire

Image credits

Billie Jean King Main Library-04

Fotoworks/Benny Chan

Morning Exterior

Fotoworks/Benny Chan

Billie Jean King Main Library-05

Fotoworks/Benny Chan

Billie Jean King Main Library-06

Fotoworks/Benny Chan

Billie Jean King Main Library-07

Fotoworks/Benny Chang