The result is a modern building that is attractive for both students and teachers, as well as eco-friendly. The project is currently registered with the United States Green Building Council for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. LEED is an internationally recognized mark of excellence providing building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. The Orchard school library utilizes a high-performance exterior building envelope, interior day lighting, natural ventilation, photovoltaic panels, upgraded mechanical systems, green-certified interior furnishings and finishes, water-saving plumbing fixtures, and careful siting and orientation to reduce solar heat gain all to achieve a high level of sustainable design.
Dating back to the 1850s, Orchard School is one of the oldest operating schools in Northern California. Its library, located at the heart of the campus, connects the elementary and middle school areas. Because of that ideal central location, a renovation and expansion of the 3,000-SF space made more sense than new construction elsewhere. Using the centralized location to advantage, the design team planned for opposing elementary and middle school entries to the library, thus defining a spatial organization that acknowledges the distinct identity of each group.
With its location tucked between stucco-clad, flat roofed 1990s-era buildings, designers and school officials knew they needed to distinguish the library from its surroundings. The expanded and renovated library responds to this challenge through the use of a metallic composite-panel façade with zinc plate accents and abundant glass, giving the library a striking aesthetic reflective of its position in the heart of Silicon Valley. The angular, sloping windows emphasize the building entries and focus interior vistas obliquely toward view corridors. They taper the building’s scale in response to its smaller users, and effectively block the unattractive view of an adjacent building’s blank rear wall and mechanical equipment, yet maintain a continuous sense of connection with the landscaped plaza outside.
Inside, the dramatic full-height glass brings natural light deep into the expanded 6,000-SF space, a drastic departure from the obstructed views of its predecessor. A natural wood screen, locally crafted from FSC-certified wood, helps to define space and provide boundaries without compromising supervision. With the circulation desk installed in the center of the space, librarians are now able to survey students while greeting anyone coming and going. Dark existing instructional spaces for elementary and middle school classes were relocated to corners filled with natural north light; the renovated existing space, with no access to windows, now houses stacks for the 18,000-volume collection, along with a new technology lab for up to 36 students.
The library has been hugely successful in creating a focal point for this rambling campus, providing new instructional opportunities, and attracting student, staff, and community users; as a bonus, its natural light and spatial quality have made it the most popular spot on campus for after-school faculty meetings and training sessions. The Orchard Library is a testament to the passion and creativity of all those involved in its creation, especially the talented people at HMC Architects.
Clearly an architectural marvel, the Orchard Library sets new precedent for educating grade school children. The library incorporates state-of-the-art technology to teach the future generation life in their modern world. Students benefit from an improved sense of community, access to technology and the profound sense that adults care about their education. Crumbling facilities send the message to students and teachers, even parents, that education is not important. The Orchard Library, in contrast, provides a shining example of a community where adults take early childhood education seriously. These adults–parents, teachers, architects and administrators–have put their money where their mouths are to improve the lives of the next generation.
Source: King , Victoria . “Orchard Library / HMC Architects” 23 Jan 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 Jan 2012. http://www.archdaily.com/201366/orchard-library-hmc-architects/
Photos: David Wakely