In Learning Color: Calabazas Branch Library

02/28/12    Sara McLean  |  specs+spaces Editor, Dunn-Edwards Corporation, Allied Member ASID, CMG

Quiet time fills the air as children peer through books filled with new adventures: this was the typical library experience many of us grew up with. Brushing that tradition aside, the San Jose Public Library System is breaking new ground, providing a fresh, exciting approach that completely re-envisions the public library environment. With the architectural expertise of Desta and Steve Krong of Krong Design and Kelly Simcox of Studio G Design,  Calabazas showcases dynamic forms, colorful details, and an atmosphere that's more like a lively coffee shop than a library.   
Defining the Exterior
A contemporary building in San Jose now fills the lot that once housed a tired, under-sized branch library. This vibrant new library will provide a lively community hub for people of all ages and backgrounds in this diverse community to enjoy. In describing the building’s architectural elements, Desta states, “The site enjoys nature on three sides—Rodeo Creek and the Community Garden adjacent, and Calabazas Park across the street. This building is crisp in its’ architectural forms, and imparts an engaging sense of fun. The theme of language is reinforced on the exterior by the large graphic three-dimensional letters “aBc” at the children’s end and the “xYz” in the exterior glass facing the entry plaza from the community room.”

Dunn-Edwards colors used on the Exterior
DEA120 Goldenrod
DE5412 Lemon Zest
DEA166 Tavern Creek

DE6319 Gray Flannel
DEC789 Light Gray
DE5475 Martian
DE6378 Jet
DE5328 Driftwood

A Discovery of Colorful Interiors
Washes of colorful light filter through the colored architectural glass upon entering the building. To experience this building is to experience a sense of fun for reading, learning and interaction throughout. As Desta and Kelly explain, “Inside the building, the words “READ” and “discovery” are cut into the colorful rubber flooring, and quotes by Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss are graphically incorporated into architectural elements in the Children’s area. Another important mission of this project is engagement of the community – from technology access and instruction to children’s storytime to an internet café and a living room with a fireplace for relaxing.”
Dunn-Edwards colors used on the Interior
DEC789 Light Gray
DE5412 Lemon Zest
DEA120 Goldenrod
DE5523 Lazy Lizard
DE5475 Martian
DE6319 Gray Flannel
DE5146 Campfire
DEA110 Untamed Orange
DEA114 Instant Orange
DEA112 Exuberant Orange
DE5062 Rosy Cheeks
DE5061 Cupid's Arrow
DE5733 Reef Encounter
DE6366 Silver Spoon
DE6367 Covered in Platinum
DE6378 Jet
DEW341 Swiss Coffee
The Client
The City of San Jose created the guidelines for this new approach to library design. Krong Design and Studio G were to follow and interpret this carefully defined program including specific quantities of circulation materials, designated program and functional areas, carefully thought-out adjacencies and functional services, and branded colors such as purple/lime green for teens and red for the internet café. “We were directed to provide a contemporary, exciting, fun and colorful space. We enjoyed lots of design freedom and support with regards to how to accomplish this, and benefitted from a dynamic and supportive collaboration with our clients,” Desta explains. In addition to the functional and visual design requirements, an important project goal was to be LEED-certified. At this time, the Calabazas Branch Library is on track for LEED-Silver Certification.

The Outcome
The City of San Jose loves the building and can’t wait to show the community. Due to open upon final city review and planning, the entire community - kids and parents alike - are anxious to see this colorful jewel box open its’ doors to them. Desta opens up about her experience and advice on Calabazas Branch Library: “Don’t be afraid to put forth bold ideas, including a rich palette of paint color!  Great design enhances the environments in which we live, work and play. Our paint color palette for the Calabazas Public Library consists of 20 colors --- and everyone who tours the library loves it!”
Krong Design, Inc is located at 1905 Park Avenue, Suite 210 San Jose, California 95126,
Studio G Architects, Inc. is located at 1427 Cherry Valley Drive, San Jose, California 95125 
All photography by Sara McLean

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Peter says:
June 06, 2012 at 2:15 PM
You would think that after all this work picking the perfect color, the local residents wouldn't hate it. The city has received so many complaints regarding the color that they are holding an online poll to see what exterior color people prefer. The yellow will possibly be replaced with a rust or gray color. Using "commercial colors" to enhance the "personality" of a building is great, but it shouldn't stick out like a sore thumb.

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