A Light From Within: Los Gatos Library

Inspired by a glowing lantern, the new 30,000-square-foot Los Gatos Library in Los Gatos, Calif., designed by Noll & Tam architects based in Berkeley, Calif., takes full advantage of all that glass can offer. As project architect Abraham Jayson explains, the library, which was completed in February 2012, wanted the structure to be a light and welcoming building, which led them to the idea of a lantern, glowing at night. The design process was led by Chris Noll, the firm’s principal in charge.

“Our [inspiration] was in the thought that libraries are the light of knowledge and [owners] liked that metaphor and the idea of a daylit building,” says Jayson.

Both inside the library as well as its exterior, glass was a significant building material, helping create a bright, open space.


According to Jayson, glass was used in a number of different areas in a number of different ways.

“On the exterior we were thoughtful about the various exposures of the building as well as cardinal points on the compass,” he says. As an example, “We made some thoughtful, minute changes in the glass from using PPG Solarban 70XL on the East, South and West to using Solarban 60 on the north. In some spots we had to be thoughtful on the corners and making sure they looked the same.”

They also worked with two contract glaziers: The Glass Man based in Alameda, Calif., and Silicon Valley Glass in Morgan Hill, Calif. Likewise, Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope (R) was the glass fabricator.

A number of glazing materials were likewise supplied by Kawneer. These include the company’s 1600 Wall System®1 curtainwall; GLASSvent® visually frameless windows; Versoleil™ sunshades; Trifab® VersaGlaze® 451T framing; and 190 narrow stile entrances.

Jayson says the project features a large expanse s of west facing glazing about 35 feet in height. “They [Kawneer] worked with us to design a custom solar shading system, which was integral to their curtainwall system,” he says. “We also did some significant daylight studies through computer modeling to determine balance of daylight shade and visible light.” As a result, he notes that solar shading has a wider space at lower, occupied zones for unobstructed views and then gets denser [as it goes up] to block more light.

He also points out that glazing was used at the entry canopy.

“We used laminated, translucent glazing, which has a spandrel band and color-changing LED lights behind it,” he says. “This allows for a wonderful diffused color band, ranging from yellows to reds, oranges and sometimes blue.”

In addition, the library features a sliding wall system, which was supplied by Sunflex Wall Systems of Naples, Fla. According to Marco Bickenbach, customer relations manager, the System used was the Sunflex SF 55 H-S-W System.

“This insulated seven-panel system with has an overall dimension of 349 ¼ inches x 114 5/8 inches,” notes Bickenbach. He adds that a system such as this one is more typical for use in interior applications; however for this project they designed it to be weather-resistant.

Jayson adds that another unique detail about the library is on the south facing clearstory, which incorporates a laminated glass photovoltaic panel.

Glazing was also used significantly inside the library, which Jayson says helped add to the light, openness of the structure.

“On the interior we used some decorative laminated glass from 3Form with their Seaweed interlayer. It tapers from full density at floor to get thinner as it rose to give effect of walking thought the grass, and we used that in the majority of the interior glass partitions,” says Jaysen.

He adds they also had a glass art piece created and installed in the central atrium. For this they worked with artist Sheri Simons, who is also a professor in the area of sculpture within the Department of Art and Art History at California State University, Chico. The art piece consists of sandblasted, low-iron tempered glass, 44 panels all 3 feet wide and varying in heights of 2, 4 and 6 feet. According to the artist’s statement, “the glass is incised with graphical languages that speak over each other, interrupt and converse within the quiet of the library. Among the ‘languages’ are: Braille, a paragraph from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, George Crumb’s music score “Makrokosmos,” a chart of the thermal conductivity of tungsten. The panels shift orientation along the vertical fins, creating a broken plane that serves to establish background and foreground. Some of the panels angle inwards towards the lobby, others outwards towards the second floor, offering a visual cue for entrance into another space.” Sandblasting was done by Lenehan Architectural Studios in Oakland, Calif.