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NORTH BEACH LIBRARY | SAN FRANCISCO, CA CS

With a modern flatiron design, the new North Beach Branch Library stands as a stunning addition to the Joe DiMaggio playground in North Beach, San Francisco, California. The architectural goal of the library was to create a “civic lantern” for the community, and ample glazing on the building’s three windowed corners allows it to emit a warm glow across in the urban scape at the intersection of Columbus Avenue and Mason Street.

The North Beach Branch Library was built as a replacement to a former branch library in the area that had been constructed in 1959 and, though a lovely example of midcentury design, did not provide handicapped accessibility, in addition to other fundamental shortcomings for a community-focused facility.

The new, two-story, 8,500 square foot library is just as design-forward as the former  library but offers all the functionality and accessibility for all. Now patrons can enjoy a community room with after-hours access for neighborhood meetings, a larger children’s area, and a new space created just for teens. In addition, the library’s soaring double-height reading rooms provide a fresh take on the library experience.

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On the exterior, the stories-high tile panels are one of the most dynamic architectural elements of the library’s design. For these, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, the firm that designed the library, specified Crossville’s Color Blox porcelain tile, in a 12”x24” format. The tiles are installed in a vertical stock bond pattern that pulls the eye upward towards the building’s dramatic roofline. These eight-foot-wide panels decked in tile are spaced by tall, thin stretches of operable windows, and most stretch from the ground to the clerestory windows, that provide additional daylighting at the top of the building. The rich, earthy Color Blox Sea Otter tone adds the perfect warm touch to the stark, glass-and-metal design and bolsters the look with texture and visual dimension, as well.

In addition to its appealing appearance, the Color Blox collection is enhanced Crossville’s proprietary Cross-Sheen® finish, giving the installation advanced performance characteristics. Cross-Sheen is an invisible, integrated finish that protects the tile from the defacing effects of graffiti, scuffs, and stains—a significant bonus in any urban environment.

The North Beach Branch Library project, which was started in 2012 and completed in 2014, earned LEED Gold status for the many sustainable features in its design, including the aforementioned clerestory and operable windows, photovoltaic solar panels on its roof, natural ventilation via a gravity vent, and a cool roof. In addition, the Color Blox porcelain tile has at least 4% pre-consumer recycled content, is Green Squared Certified and made in the U.S.

With the warm glow that shines through its glass in the evenings, the many services it offers residents, and its sustainable design, the North Beach Branch Library is truly a civic lantern for the North Beach community, serving as a bright spot to local residents in many and varying ways.