Robertson Branch Library
Steven Ehrlich Architects

May 26, 2008 /

Los Angeles, California, USA

Photo: Tom Bonner

The Robertson Branch library is situated on a busy Los Angeles strip, where apartments and commercial buildings clamor for attention.

Through the Los Angeles Cultural Arts Commission Arts in Public Places Program, the tile facade is used as a billboard for witticism and literary quotations to reaffirm the importance and presence of the written word for a public library.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

With its pre-weathered copper-clad 'ship's hull' protruding over the sidewalk, the Library boldly announces its presence on the street, becoming a beacon for the community on this busy street./Steven Ehrlich

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Steven Ehrlich broke the monotony of the basic rectangular footprint with a bold element that resembles the hull of a boat, which soars above the otherwise modest 2-story structure. This element acts as a library marketing device to increase public attendance, inviting patrons to read and gather.

Photo: Tom Bonner

Photo: Tom Bonner

Inside, this dramatic two-story volume serves as the central organizing element of the library. It contains a curving stairway crafted of steel and stone treads that draw visitors up to the second floor.

The hull pierces the library's rectangular framework like a ship skewering a modernist block. The gracefully curved volume is energized by being slightly skewed on all three axes, heightening the counterpoint to the grids of floor plan and elevation. The long axis is not perpendicular to the street, but points toward downtown and the main library, symbolically connecting the branch with the greater metropolis.

Photo: Tom Bonner

Photo: Tom Bonner

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The library sits on a very tight site, and approximately 3/4 of the ground plane was allocated for parking and vehicular access. As a result, the majority of the library is elevated to allow for a driveway and at-grade parking to occur underneath the main structure. Public spaces are located on the second floor which are in strong connection to the two-story hull. This synergy enlivens the simpler reading room spaces and physically connects the library user to the ground plane, side wall, street and community.

Photo: Tom Bonner

Photo: Tom Bonner

The building received the AIA/National American Library Association 2001 Award; Los Angeles AIA - 1998 Distinguished Building Award; Los Angeles Business Council 1998; LA Cultural Affairs Commission 1997

Sketch courtesy Steven Ehrlich Architects

Drawing courtesy Steven Ehrlich ArchitectsPlans First and Second Floor
Drawing courtesy Steven Ehrlich ArchitectsSection

Facts about Robertson Branch Library

Total area:

11,000 square feet

Structural Engineer:

William Koh

Landscape Architect:

BLS Environmental Design

Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer:

Kim Casey & Harase, Inc.

Civil Engineer:

Ashba Engineers, Ltd.

Lighting Design:

PHA Lighting Design


Allee Construction

Art Consultant:

Erika Rothenberg


City of Los Angeles

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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