Healing place for the soul

April 30, 2012

Gilroy Dispatch

Posted on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 10:43 am
by Blair Tellers Staff Writer

For full story and images:

From its ambiance to natural lighting to its new-book smell – the building is a beauty

If libraries are in fact, “a healing place of the soul” – as the axiom inscribed above the entrance to a library in Thebes, Ancient Greece aptly declares – Gilroy’s brand-new library is one powerful elixir.

It’s a gorgeous day outside. The best we’ve had all year, according to local weather stations.

Sitting down on a Friday to work indoors when its 80 degrees outside doesn’t feel like such an injustice, however – not when you’re enveloped by second-story views of thick poplar trees, leafy branches drifting in the breeze and a backdrop of verdant rolling hills rising up in the distance like sleeping giants.

It’s this sort of seamless “relationship with the outdoors” that David Richards, principal with the national architecture firm Harley, Ellis & Devereaux who dreamed up Gilroy’s newest structural jewel, says he likes the most.

Stately arched windows, the use of shape in woodwork, an airy ambiance and calming tones such as dark blue, deep purple, light green and earthy neutrals impart a natural transition from the outside world upon breezing through the library’s sliding front doors.

Head Librarian Lani Yoshimura often alludes to one of her favorite aesthetic elements; the building’s deliberate harnessing of natural sunlight.“The quality of light is just spectacular in some places,” she said. “You get tremendous light deep into the building.”

From the uninhibited beams of sunlight that flood the interior through massive windows, to the lofty A-frame ceiling rising high above the book stacks, to the various reading nooks festooned with artsy light fixtures, to glass dividers that create a sense of openness from one area to the next, to the celestial crop of staggered lamps emitting a soft glow above the computer desks: Readers of all ages who once frequented the former 12,500-square-foot library, and even more confined interim building on Monterey Street downtown, will bask in the attractive ambiance of Gilroy’s stunning new community Mecca.

As Yoshimura pointed out, the endless supply of elbow room inside this 52,000-square-foot building is something to relish.

“It’s just an absolute luxury of space,” she said. “In the other building you would have teen center right next to the quiet study area.”

“Luxury” is an apropos characterization, what with banquet-style tables that can fit up to 12 homework buddies; coffee-shop style study bars ideal for laptop users; clusters upon clusters of comfy cushioned arm chairs; cozy reading nooks tucked away in quiet corners; and beckoning window seats warmed by sunlight – perfect for getting lost in that copy of “The Hobbit” you happened upon while perusing the fiction section.

An outdoor brick courtyard encircled by a budding garden and young trees will no doubt offer the best of both worlds on hot August afternoons, when library-goers can make simultaneous headway on their suntans and summer reading list.

“It reminds me of Disneyland, in the sense that everything is first class. There was a great deal of thought that went into this,” said the city’s Public Information Officer Joe Kline during one of his copious library tours, prior to its grand opening.

Kline strolled down one of the outdoor corridors, shaded by a wood trellis that will someday be heavily cloaked in wispy vines of wisteria as it continues to grow.

Room to sprawl is just one feature constituting the library’s appealing aura. Little details such as reference desks that sparkle with veneers of virtuozzo (countertops made from concrete and pieces of recycled glass) show just as much thought was given to the immense, as it was the intricate.

A prevalent theme throughout the library incorporates trees into the décor, such as walls in the library that come alive with colorful, two-dimensional tree silhouettes. In the downstairs and upstairs lobbies, glass panels exquisitely etched with images of branches inject elegant flair into otherwise common spaces.

This particular design element speaks to Gilroy’s heritage as a “Tree City USA,” Richards said For those of us who aren’t familiar with “Tree City USA,” this program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation and provides direction to cities regarding urban and community forestry programs. At 32 years and counting, Gilroy is the fourth-longest city in California to actively participate in the program, according to the organizations’ website.

While Yoshimura's hands are little full to be thinking about the luxuries of decorating, she salvaged from the old library a pair of “wonderful” wood doors with a large bird carved into them.

“We stored (the doors), and hopefully we'll be able to bring them back into the building as a design element,” she noted.

Perhaps most striking of the library ornaments is a pastoral motif depicting open sky, layers of rolling hills and shaded forests. Hanging securely from the wall above the second floor, Richards said this lovely abstract creation was instilled by one of the library's views that looks west toward Mount Madonna.“We didn't necessarily want it to look like art,” he added. “It's supposed to be inspirational: There's always something over the hill that might be worth going after and driving for.”

TAGS: libraries, General/Other/Miscellaneous, LEED Projects, LEED Gold,