Apple stores architect to design new Pleasant Hill library

The award-winning architectural firm behind the flagship glass cube Apple store in New York City will design Pleasant Hill’s long-awaited new library.

The City Council selected the San Francisco office of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson from among 11 candidates.

In addition to Apple stores, the company has designed high-profile commercial, academic, corporate and civic projects across the country, including Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, a branch of the Seattle Public Library and the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at Mills College.

The council approved the contract with the firm on Oct. 16.
In its proposal, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson identified themes that will guide its work for Pleasant Hill — encouraging community engagement; designing a signature building that includes flexibility; and taking into consideration the physical features of the site.

Although it may be difficult for the firm to top a showstopper like Apple’s glass cube, city leaders do expect something special.

“I want an iconic building and I want something that stands out and sets us apart,” Councilman Ken Carlson said during the meeting where the council announced its selection.
“But I want something that’s exceptionally functional and meets the needs of the community and will stand the test of time.”

So far, the community’s library wish list includes a 22,000- to 25,000-square-foot facility with the latest technology, flexible spaces, conference and study rooms, a teen area and a larger children’s and family area, a bookstore for Friends of the Pleasant Hill Library, outdoor seating and self-checkout kiosks.

Margaret Sullivan Studio, a firm that specializes in library programming and interior design, will lead at least three workshops or focus groups to gather public input and help residents refine their vision for the facility. The first session will be in November.

The city expects the design phase to last 18 to 24 months. Construction should begin by early 2020 with the goal of the library opening the following year.

As part of a deal between Contra Costa County and the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District, the county will transfer about 3 acres of the former Oak Park Elementary school site to the city for the library.

Pleasant Hill estimates that a 22,000- to 25,000-square-foot facility would cost $15 million to $20 million. The city intends to pay for the library with a share of the roughly $4 million generated annually by the additional half-cent increase voters approved last year.

“Libraries are tricky buildings to design, I’ve seen a lot of bad ones,” said Patrick Remer, community library manager at the Pleasant Hill branch. “We use them for so many different kinds of learning, work and play; we can not easily predict how we will grow to use them in the future, either.”
Remer praised the council’s choice of architect and noted that libraries play an important role in the community and serve a diverse population.

“The library must welcome and support all of us and it takes great talent, I think, to accomplish a design that does it,” he added.