Library is First for City

Dec. 1, 2007

HERCULES, CA/SAN FRANCISCO-The Hercules Public Library officially opened earlier this year, becoming the first such facility for the city of Hercules, which was one of only two cities in California without a public library. Designed by the San Francisco office of HGA Architects and Engineers (HGA) in association with Will Bruder Architects of Phoenix, the $10.4 million library is located 25 miles north of San Francisco.

Since its incorporation as a city in 1900, Hercules residents have had to look to the neighboring cities of Pinole and Martinez for library services. Today, half the city's population is made up of families and children, so the Contra Costa County Library system recognized the need for a local facility.

"Demand for library services continues to increase in Contra Costa County, but the Internet age has changed how libraries are designed," said Fredric Sherman, AIA, principal-in-charge of HGA's San Francisco office. "We designed Hercules Public Library as a destination, with state-of-the-art technology to fulfill the community's needs."

The building's program and design were developed with input from a selected group of Hercules citizens that represented the community's diversity. As a result, the 21,500-square-foot facility will serve not only as a library, but also as a cultural center for area residents. Supported by an international language collection, an art gallery, and a heritage garden, the new library will provide a gathering spot for social functions fostering intercultural understanding. 

The library houses a circulation of approximately 800,000 books and periodicals, as well as other learning resources, such as multi-use computer stations with Internet research capabilities. Also featured are a teen homework center where students can take advantage of after-school tutoring programs, the "Story Cove" for children's reading events, a café, a reading area with fireside seating, and several meeting and study rooms.+

Since the library was designed to create a "sense of place" for visitors, the building strives to make a statement. The street-side corner of the brick cube features a dramatic wall of glass that juts out to proclaim its presence. Not only does the design of the library help position Hercules as a vibrant, growing community, it also hearkens back the founding of the city. The dark brick exterior references the California Powder Works building, which produced the Hercules brand of dynamite for which the city is named. 

The library's design integrates an enclosed courtyard or "skygarden" to provide patrons with a sheltered, outdoor space, as well as to provide an excellent source of natural light for the entire building. While its spiritual significance can be found in Asian healing gardens, this skygarden serves as an architectural organizing element, subtly separating the adult and children's areas. 

Further visual separation between different areas is achieved by the use of color and materials. Using a subdued color scheme as the backdrop, the designers chose a variety of primary colors as accents to indicate specific seating groups.

In addition to significant use of natural light, the design incorporates several sustainable components, including sophisticated solar glazing, a "cool" roof, 100-percent recyclable carpet tile, and bioswales for site drainage. Furthermore, the design and construction team chose durable, long-lasting materials that will meet the city's longevity standards for public buildings.

The Hercules Public Library design team included Fredric Sherman, AIA, principal-in-charge; Jane Dedering, interior designer and library planner; and Lawrence Smith, project architect-all from HGA Architects and Engineers.  Will Bruder of Will Bruder Architects served as lead project designer and Turner Construction served as construction manager.           

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