Slate creates a park-like setting for California library

June 4, 2003
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Pacific Palisades is a small neighborhood in Los Angeles, CA, that needed its own library branch. Placed close to a public park, the architects of Killefer Flammang Architects in Santa Monica, CA, wanted the building to have ties with the community and its surroundings. "The original design intent of the library was to have stone walls," said Bob Timmerman, senior associate of Killefer Flammang Architects. "The design ties right into the public park. We were going for the same kind of feel of the park -- a soft and warm feeling."

The community was involved with the design of the library, and attended meetings to discuss it. Once their input was given, a 12,500-square-foot building with a predominately slate exterior came to fruition. "Everyone just wanted to have a building that sits well in the park setting," said Timmerman. "It was important that everyone in the community would be comfortable with it."

Slate was selected by the architects to clad the exterior of the building, to achieve the warm affect they desired. The stone was also chosen to integrate the rustic architecture of the building with the park setting. Approximately 9,000 square feet of Gold Green slate in a random pattern was chosen for the cladding, while 13,000 square feet of Ostrich Grey slate was used for the exterior pavers and patio. Southland Stone, USA, Inc. of North Hollywood, CA, supplied the slate for the building. "It was slate from China," said Timmerman. "The slate we selected for the cladding has some green in it. We couldn't afford a local stone we wanted, which had more blue in it, so we went through several samples and ended up with these.

"The advantages of the slate are the look of the stone, the ease of maintenance, and its long-term durability," the architect continued. "It is very compatible with the rest of the materials used in the library."

The stone wraps into the interior walls around the windows to give continuity with the exterior. The interior stone complements the cork floors, carpeting and painted gypsum board, used for the three reading rooms inside. The library is also sited so there would be an abundance of natural light.

Construction of the building began in spring 2001 and was completed in December 2002. MTK Tile, Inc. of Tarzana, CA, was commissioned to install the slate used for the building. "We used a mortar bed with type S mortar," said Tamir Patel of MTK Tile. "The installation took about four months, with an average of 10 workers at a time."

Though the installation itself was not difficult, it took the installers some time to understand the design concept the architects desired. "The design issue was complicated," said Patel. "We had to figure out what they wanted, so we made up samples of installations. The installation decision really was the outcome of the stone decision, though. Mortar bed is the best way to install this stone."

Once the project was completed, the neighborhood has had a positive reaction. "It has been great," said Timmerman. "The people who work at the library are happy with the building and the community has been very complimentary.

The project received the Design 2001 Award of Excellence from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission. It was praised for its handling of a sensitive site in a neighborhood park.

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