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San Antonio Central Library



203 S St. Marys Street

Project Status



240,000 sq. feet
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Project Description


The city of San Antonio requested a building that the community could celebrate as its own. The program required state-of-the-art technology for the information access. The design challenge was to achieve an architecture identifiable as a public building while accommodating the library functions.

Described by local critics as an “ingenious blending of design and function”, the new building expands the role that the library is expected to assume. Books remain a critical element, but architecture, art, and technology also received due consideration. The design seeks to entices visitors to discover something new on each visit and thus to attract them back for repeat visits.

The geometry of rotated and cutaway boxes was largely determined by fitting the spatial requirements into the site while generating a friendly and inviting building. The exterior is a visual wonderland of shapes, angles, and openings that create an interplay of light and shadow, both inside and outside. At street level a stone wainscot introduces scale.

A sense of mystery is evoked by blending natural light, shadow, and geometric forms.

The main mass of the library is a six-story box surrounding a yellow skylit atrium that serves as a focal point for each floor. Several terraces are accented by large geometric constructions. Triangluar and rectangular baffle walls painted purple or yellow on the third-floor terrace invite visitors to wander outside. The terrace on the west is bordered by a slightly raised water channel that drops into a circular pool. Beyond this channel stands a grove of palm trees.

A sense of freedom was evoked by varying the size and shape of library floors to give each a unique character. Visitors are thus encouraged to discover the building in all of its variety, natrual intrigue, and wonder. Graduated chils-size stacks are among the unique features of the children’s library. Scaled-down furnishins and abundant natural light place young people at ease in an environment tailored to their needs.
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