Austin's Central Library

Posted by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Texas Realty on Friday, April 12th, 2019 at 2:16pm.

Published by: Christine Pease

April 12, 2019

Brainstorming for the new Austin Central library began in 2009 by project leaders - Branda Branch, then-Austin Public Library Director; John Gillum, APL's facilities process manager; and architectural firms Lake|Flato of Austin/San Antonio and Shepley Bulfinch of Boston. Both architectural firms felt the new library couldn't just be a 6-story building of dead quiet with people reading silently. The new Austin Central Library is intended to be the "library of the future". Yes, there are books! In fact, the new Austin Library which is a solid 198,000 square feet, houses all 300,000 books from the John Henry Faulk Central Library on Guadalupe and even has room for another 300K on top of that. But this library is not just about books. The ways in which people use the library as evolved over the last few decades. The best libraries built during this time reflect those changes which include: incorporating technology, increase value to programs that bring people together and to exchange information. These ideas were the driving force behind the design and that's why it's about so much more than just books.


Outside the third and fourth floor is a metal shade carved with quotes from famous people known around the world. One quote from Lady Bird Johnson says, "Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest." 

What you'll find inside is remarkable. Enter through Cesar Chavez and you'll find an event space that can seat 350 people for readings, lectures, screenings, etc. Cme in by Shoal Creek and you'll see tiered seating for speaking events and demos. Can't stop there! Enter through the new "butterfly bridge" off West Avenue and there's a cafe - Cookbook! This isn't your basic coffee and pastry cafe, this eatery offers menu items made from cookbooks within the library!

On the second floor, explore the art gallery with rotating exhibits. Throughout the building you'll find several shared learning spaces, which may be reserved for private meetings, study groups, etc. The rooftop is complete with a stunning garden featuring native plants, butterfly habitat and a live Lacey oak! The rooftop deck has a stunning view of Lady Bird Lake! 



Lake|Flato partner, David Lake, says "Austin's never had a community space that truly welcomes families in an informal way to enjoy one another and build community. We saw {the library} as a social hub, a front porch for the city of Austin." Lake|Flato is incredibly passionate about porches, making buildings with actual outdoor spaces that link the built site and the environment. For the new Central library, people can take a step out of the building to read a book while enjoying the fresh Austin air through screened-in porches outside the third-floor children's section and the fourth-floor adult fiction section. 


"You always take your book to the light. You never take your book to the dark. Light is what you seek when you're reading a book and we wanted light to be everywhere." says Lake from Lake|Flato.  Daylight accounts for about 20% of illumination in most library spaces. Lake|Flato wanted to up that number to at least 80%. In order to achieve these, the building was designed with expansive windows on all sides and large skylights on the roof. These windows allow natural light into the expansive six-story atrium where light beams into every floor.

-The Future

Outdated and overcrowded, The John Henry Faulk Central Library was only 38 years old when it was decommissioned. Knowing that, this Central library was designed to not only outlive its predecessor but last a century. What the designers did was built flexibility into the design. With a raised-floor system for electrical wiring, cables and such will allow for easier access for system updates. The library has upgraded access with 150 self-heck portable devices and even has a Tech Petting Zoo. 


"We all thought of the building as this great portal - to knowledge, to the environment, to the culture - so in that way it's by far the most public-spirited building we've done - not only in Austin but anywhere. Libraries of the future need to be reaching out to the community and engaging the community and welcoming everyone to share knowledge and ideas. You always want the library to be the most welcoming place in town. I hope this one becomes the destination we all wanted it to be when took this on" says Lake.

I have personally visited the new Austin Central Library and was absolutely fascinated. You're eyes don't know where to look as there are so many cool nooks, curves, circular windows, quotes, art gallery, an interactive avatar and so much more. The cafe was so very inviting and I loved the open kitchen concept. The technology behind the Petting Zoo is incredible. Watching a 3D printer live took the cake. While I was there, the 3D printer was making a T-Rex head! And to be honest, I really enjoyed the teen section. There were so many cool games, for example, a digital air hockey table. I wanted to play so bad but that section is dedicated to teens! Adults are allowed to roam that section but can't play! It's truly a great piece of architecture that Austinites will enjoy for many years to come.

Photos by: John Anderson


BHHS Austin Real Estate Blog

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