Surf City USA boasts one of the most stunning Neutra designs in existence, the Huntington Beach Central Library. The late modern multi-level structure was designed by Richard and Dion Neutra Architecture Firm and finished in 1975. The Central Library is a pillar of culture, knowledge and community for Huntington Beach residents and visitors.
History and Community Value
In 1967 Huntington Beach librarian Walter Johnson urged the library board to consider an expansion due to the growing community’s library needs. The board designated the current location at Talbert Avenue for an additional, central location.
Library board members travelled California viewing newly built libraries and narrowed in on Richard and Dion Neutra architecture firm. Although Richard Neutra died before the project started, Dion took his place and designed the landmark in true Mid-Century Modern style. Work on the Central Library started in 1972 and doors were opened to the public in 1975.
The building was carefully designed to accommodate many community functions including research, lectures, courses, meetings, wedding ceremonies, etc. The library features desktop computers and Wi-Fi for public use. A large children’s section attracts kids with fun, brightly colored graphics as well as regular reading time. Talks and concerts are frequently held year-round in the auditorium and park.
The library’s design makes for a calming tranquil retreat with many spaces for quiet reading or study. Neutra’s modern approach brings the outside in with nature continuing indoors seamlessly through the fully glazed exterior walls of the building.
A large park adjoins the glass-walled building. From the outside, the building appears as a tall, mirrored structure nestled in amongst the trees during the daytime. At night, particularly as viewed from the park, the building is a brightly lit glass box, resembling a giant lantern.
Water features make up a theme in the design both inside and outside starting with a series of cascading pools in front of the library’s entrance, fountains and a large pool inside, and a larger pond outside (drained during droughts) that has the illusion of connecting with the interior pool.
The sound of running water fills the common spaces. In the Atrium a floating spiral walking ramp hovers over a large pool of water with small geysers of water, creating a waterfall-like sound. Visitors can sit around the water at café-style tables and enjoy the ambient noise as well as a fresh brewed coffee and a bite to eat from the café cart at the base of the ramp.
In the main reading area towering fiddle leaf fig trees rise up from the ground floor. Lush potted plants are sprinkled throughout, taking in light from glass walls.
Most of the library sections are housed as floating fixtures within the exterior shell of the building. The main collection area consists of 3 floors of books with banisters instead of walls. Platforms outfitted with work stations, comfortable chairs and coffee tables lead out from each floor at staggered heights with stairs leading up or down from the collection area’s few floors. The area is clearly designed to allow patrons an un-compromised view out over the green trees both inside and outside, and through to the adjacent park. A fountain completes the ambiance of the space. It is an ideal space to relax with a book or sit down for a focused work/study session.
We highly recommends a visit to the Central Library if you haven’t already been.
Sarah Roullard Le
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