The new San José Public Library - Pearl Avenue Branch doubled the size of the original library, which was built in 1971, and slate from Echeguren Slate, Inc. of San Francisco, CA, played an integral role in the design of the facility.

The new San José Public Library - Pearl Avenue Branch in San José, CA, includes the use of local slate from Echeguren Slate, Inc. of San Francisco, CA, and the material played an integral role in the design of the facility. One main project goal was to double the size of the original library - which was built in 1971 - bringing it from 7,116 square feet to 14,000 square feet of space. Another objective was to give the space the feel of an attractive bookstore, and Krista Nelson, AIA, and Pamela Anderson- Brulé, AIA, of Anderson Brulé Architects of San José, CA, was responsible for the design.

Nelson explained that another important goal was to maintain a visual connection to nature, while providing a strong civic street presence. “The building is sited to preserve many of the large perimeter trees opening up the library to a viewing garden,” cited a design statement from the firm. “This creates a visual connection to nature that is reinforced by the interior finish, patterns and colors.”

According to Nelson, several stones were presented for use on the project, but they were ruled out because they didn’t have the desired texture or color variations that the architects were looking for. Ultimately, Kota Brown slate from Echeguren was selected “because of its texture and warm colors, while still fitting within the project budget.”

“The green tones in particular related to the garden theme and provided a beautiful counter balance to the champagne color of the roof,” added Anderson-Brulé.

Kota Brown slate in 12- x 24- and 24- x 24-inch pieces were used to clad interior and exterior walls of the library. The same material was also used for an outdoor feature wall that serves multiple purposes, from a planter and bench seating on one side to a bike rack and public phone on the other side.

Nelson explained that one of the challenges was to provide the strong street presence, while also providing a central entry point off of the parking lot. According to the architects, the roof form creates a tall wall along the street, and then brings the site line down to the entry at the center of the building. These two points were anchored by strong wall forms, and the use of stone helped to create the “mass and strength” of these walls.

Another challenge, according to Anderson-Brulé, was that the specific pattern and cut of the stone had to work with the rhythm and scale of the other features of the building.

Construction of the project began in September of 2006 and was completed in early spring of 2008. “The project’s careful consideration of the balance of all of the architectural features within the stated budget, and with all additive alternatives included, was greatly appreciated,” explained Jane Light, Director of the San José Public Library. “The library’s civic presence from the street and its careful consideration of the scale against the residential neighbors in the rear of the lot met our goal for this facility.

“This building is smaller than many of the other libraries in the City of San José, but its simple volumes and open plan make it feel open, airy and expansive,” she continued. “The upgraded materials and finishes give the City of San José and that community a public library that they can be proud of opening.”