The future of Austin looks good. There's a new central library planned for downtown Austin and it won’t just appeal to diehard book worms; with sustainable features, modern architecture and state-of-the-art technology, it’ll be a tribute to the diversity of a city whose people like learning, discovery, meeting new people, fun views and yes—reading!
To be located on Cesar Chavez Boulevard adjacent to Shoal Creek and the Seaholm Redevelopment, the project—estimated to be almost 200,000 square feet when completed—will be jointly designed by Lake|Flato Architects and Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott Incorporated and managed by the Public Works Department. Dubbed the “library for the future,” this library will fit the needs of a unique city like Austin by being flexible and accessible for everyone.
More than 500,000 diverse customers use the current downtown Central Austin library, Faulk Central Library, and the collection there outgrew the building’s capacity over 15 years ago. With a building that just can’t be expanded to keep up with Austin’s bursting population growth, the decision to build a new library was first approved by voters in November of 2006.
On December 11, 2008 the Austin City Council selected the design firms. Last month, City Council approved the schematic design for the New Central Library Project and authorized the City Manager to proceed with the design development phase, slated to be completed in the summer of 2012. The construction documents phase is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2013. Construction is supposed to begin in the summer of 2013 and if all goes well, the city of Austin will have a completed new library in the fall of 2015, with a grand opening ceremony planned for the winter of that year.
Described as a “welcoming lantern to downtown Austin” in the city’s library presentation information (viewable online), the new library will “embrace the new urban character of Austin,” mimicking the cool atmosphere of areas like the Second Street District.
The six-level structure, budgeted to cost $120 million, will feature a lot of natural lighting with gorgeous atrium views and what looks like two indescribably awesome outdoor reading porches overlooking Ladybird Lake. With the central location, you’ll be able approach it lots of different ways (from Shoal Creek, from the Second Street District or by the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, for example) by bike, car, public transportation and also by foot. Highlights of this new downtown destination will include:
- A café operated by a third party vendor
- A bicycle porch with room for 200+ bicycles
- A boutique outlet of the library’s Recycled Reads Bookstore
- A beautiful natural light atrium that is the center of activities
- Multiple customer service locations and tons of self check-out stations
- A technology-filled, multi-purpose special events center for up to 350 people
- State-of-the-art technology throughout the building
- Two outdoor reading porches
- A rooftop garden
- Improved collections of books and multi-media materials
- Children and Teen spaces
- Seating for nearly 500 people sprinkled throughout
- An area for recycling
- A 200-space underground parking garage
There will be lots of sustainable aspects to the new library’s home as well, including another awesome-sounding outdoor area: a roof garden. The new library will actually even surpass LEED Silver Certified requirements (in other words, not too sustainably shabby). Some “green” aspects to the building:
- Reduced area of air-conditioned space by incorporating large, outdoor porches
- Lots of windows to let in natural light (especially with a central atrium) and reflectors to bounce light deep into the building (even natural light in the garage!)
- Solar energy with rooftop solar photovoltaic collectors (up to 13% of building energy demand)
- Decreased demand on water use (35% less than typical of a building of this size)
- Large rainwater collection system for irrigation, toilet flushing and low flow urinals
- Drought tolerant plants
- Interior planted living wall
We've just got to wait until 2015 to sit on those outdoor porches with a good book. Also, it's not too late to add your two cents: you can still submit suggestions for the new library through an online suggestion form.
For more information: City of Austin New Library