Saddleback College has reinvented the school’s aging library building into a new Library and Learning Resource Center, modifying the existing building to demonstrate the college’s dedication to education, culture, and a vibrant campus life. The project provides students an example of creating something new and relevant from something old and dilapidated.

Students and faculty found the existing library dark and uninviting due to masses of exposed concrete, inadequate artificial lighting, lack of daylighting, and minimal connection to the outdoors—each 33,000 square foot level contained only two windows. gkkworks’ design challenge was to create a visual connection to the exterior and draw daylight deep into the building, as well as consolidating several dispersed programmatic elements into one facility.

Built in 1972, the Saddleback College Library originally housed library stacks on the upper two levels, with lecture, classroom, and studio spaces on the first level. Now, with the advent of technology, less space is required for physical books, and gkkworks was able to open up the main (second) level to other uses. The facility now contains the library stacks on the upper (third) level, accessed from the east by entering the new Learning Resources Center (LRC) on the second level. The lower (first) level, housing new classrooms, has a separate access directly from the southern plaza on this sloped site. The remodeled facility also contains the Lariat newspaper, a plethora of study spaces, 14 classrooms, computer labs, the Learning Assistance Program, Reading Center, Writing Center, administrative offices, and interior and exterior venues for student and local artist exhibitions.

Visual connection to the exterior was achieved using a monumental stair housed within a translucent glass box floating eight feet above the LRC floor. This box is illuminated by skylights and channels a vast amount of daylight from the upper floor and onto the LRC’s central social space. Areas that surround the stair are atmospherically connected or enclosed by transparent glass. The resulting environment creates an energetic space with expansive slight lines, intuitive circulation, and clear wayfinding.

Student activity within the remodeled facility dramatically increased in the first two months of the fall semester. Students state that the new library promotes a sense of communal pride and excitement, and feel that the Saddleback College brand has been elevated—when in the Library and LRC, students think beyond the notion of a two-year community college.

United Interiors and gkkworks recently received an Honor Award for this project from the Orange County chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

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