LAPL, Will & Ariel Durant Branch

Barton Phelps & Associates - LAPL, Will & Ariel Durant Branch

7140 West Sunset Boulevard
Hollywood, California

On the north, the site fronts a commercial strip and takes in views of the Hollywood Hills. It slopes down in back to merge with a residential neighborhood. Tall and hard on the front, low and green behind, the plan and section reflect community concern about identity, access, noise, and daylight. Entrances to the building from the street corner and rear parking are given equal importance.

Daylight: Inside, a row of steel columns supports curved ceilings that expand the volume of the reading room and maximize reflected light from south-facing skylights high overhead. Light entering at the reading court that terminates the main axis offsets the cul-de-sac quality that haunts long buildings entered at one end. Computer stations are tucked into sound absorptive bamboo sheds.

The Strip: Refracted by thick glass block panels of a cranking bay window, daytime  movement of  pedestrians and cars (and their headlights by night) are engaged with little noise penetration . Concrete columns rise from a protective berm to brace the glass and support the canopy above. They form a secondary structural system that parallels the taller steel framing of the roof. Outside, a concrete berm replaces the usual hard-to-maintain planting beds. Sloping to a sidewalk of the same color, the berm and walkway announce the building to passing pedestrians. Inside, block walls and colored concrete paving continue the public, exterior character of the sidewalk into the library.

Mass and Tone: Square, concrete masonry units provide seismic resistance, noise abatement, and durable finish. The 12"x 12" module and raked joints give scale and texture. The color is part of an earthy palette of concrete, metal siding, and painted steel elements. On the outside, the block color sets the building off from its commercial neighbors. It looks particularly good in the orange light of morning and evening when Sunset is most heavily used.

Signs: The front is a billboard with three-dimensional signage bearing the names of its famous historian dedicatees. Per LAPL policy and unlike commercial signs, the memorial names read in an evanescent way - clearly in oblique views from the street but only faintly when viewed straight on.

Design Excellence, City of Los Angeles
Cultural Affairs Commission, 2003
Design Award, Concrete Masonry
Association of California and Nevada,

Photography: Grant Mudford