Berkeley Public Library, North Branch

Berkeley Public Library, North Branch - Sustainable Design, LEED Silver - ARG

Public libraries face the challenge of relevance in today’s technological fever. ARG brought new life to Berkeley’s historic North Branch Library – the City’s busiest – expanding the beloved landmark to create much needed community and staff space, reviving its exterior and restoring its radiant interior. John King, in the San Francisco Chronicle, presciently wrote “I’ll go out on a limb and predict an award winner to come…” and, in fact, the project has won multiple design and preservation awards, as well as LEED Silver Certification.


The building was originally painted white, but a 1970s change to a terra cotta color had become much-loved by the community and was retained.


Historic drawings showed that the original architect had anticipated a future addition, smaller than but similar to ours. The addition had to be carefully sized and located on the Library’s constricted site: a triangular park, with streets on all sides.


The beautiful decoratively painted ceiling trusses, showcased by new lighting, were previously almost invisible above the 1960s era light fixtures. The large chandelier in the Rotunda is an energy efficient replica of the original.


The North Branch rehabilitation was the first of four projects funded by a comprehensive bond measure for complete upgrade of the City’s branch libraries.

Photography by David Wakely

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