The new Austin Central Public Library opened yesterday and it is our city’s masterpiece.

The new Austin Central Public Library is our city’s masterpiece.

“It’s six huge floors!”

“There’s all these places to sit and work.”

“There’s 360° views everywhere.”

“When did these running trails open?”

These were just a handful of the rave reviews I could hear others tell their friends about the library as they wandered through the over 200,000 square foot facility – led by architecture design team Lake|Flato and Shepley Bulfinch.

Over 10 years in the making, the $125 million dollar project is a modern placemaking achievement. Once Jeff Bezos and Amazon see this place, I’d bet the chances of Austin hosting HQ2 are going to shoot way up. I hear they like books.

In the age of the internet, streaming content, and Amazon Kindles, the word “library” doesn’t carry the intrigue it used to. Most conversations I’d have about the new library development project would carry a lingering disinterest. “What’s the point of a library anymore?” “What are they going to do differently?”

The new Austin Central Public Library is Austin’s best new co-working space.

The newspapers would say “the new library will provide access to digital information, technology and community resources,” while the project was underway. But there was always so much vagueness to that marketing language. What does that mean exactly? And why will I (or anyone) care?

All those questions were answered just moments after walking through the glass doors.

Lounges and Reading Porches

The cramped and dimly lit library spaces of past generations have been replaced with natural light, reading porches, and sprawling lounges.

The library spared no expense in outfitting the space with some of the most functional and acclaimed furniture pieces. Bertoia. Panton. Eames. They’re all here and they all work. Walking through the space, it was impressive how naturally the hundreds of first-time vistors settled in – and used the space exactly how it was intended.

Every floor was outfitted with a unique space. On one floor, you’d find kids reading books on knit stools, or constructing creations of their own with Legos. Another floor featured a Teen Zone, that serves as a teens-only club filled with games and gathering space.

Co-Working

The conference rooms are on par with Austin’s largest tech companies.

The new Austin Central Public Library is Austin’s best new co-working space. Each of the six floors houses several “Shared Learning Rooms” that you can reserve for work and study. Furnished with glass whiteboards, Yves Béhar’s Sayl Chairs, 60″ televisions (connected to an Apple TV), and video conferencing equipment, the conference rooms are on par with the working spaces you’ll see at some of Austin’s largest tech companies (Home Away, T3, Capital Factory, Calavista).

Views

The best views of the city are here, and they’re breathtaking

The perimeter of every floor has access to the best views of the city. The structure creates viewpoints and vistas that make you step back and realize how big this city has grown, and how remarkable it has become. They’re simply breathtaking.

Access

One of the best things about this new public building is the access it provides everyone. There are laptop vending machines where you can checkout a Chromebook or Macbook Air. There’s a “Technology Petting Zoo” where you can try out the latest new tech devices – on display today was a PS4 VR headset, Makerbot 3D printer, Google Home, and more.

The computers, internet, and access that we often take for granted is right here available to all. And already you could see people engaging with their curiosity.

A New Downtown

Perhaps most critically though, the new Austin Central Public Library adds value and excitement to the city. The adjacent Butterfly Bridge offers connectivity between the Seaholm and 2nd Street districts. New running trails and lush landscapes surround its base, and the city feels brand new again. Downtown Austin has its new cornerstone piece.

The Austin Central Public Library is a landmark achievement in vision and execution. I encourage you to go and discover it, and be a part of a significant piece of our city’s development. It’s a textbook example of what’s possible in community building and placemaking.

And it will not just get you to go to the library. It will get you to fall in love with the city all over again.

Austin Central Public Library

710 W. César Chávez St.

Hours
Monday – Thursday: 10AM–9PM
Friday – Saturday: 10AM–6PM
Sunday: 12–6PM


Photography and Writing by Chris Perez

Showing 2 comments
  • Sidney Bowen AIA
    Reply

    Chris,it was truly inspiring to see the reaction of the Austin community on Saturday morning. Your observations reflect the goals and vision of library and city leadership, the designers and builders. If the new library is as successful as your kind observations suggest then it is a credit to the Austin community. This is a building that could not exist but for the special character of its city. Having been a fortunate participant in the seven year process, I am gratified in feeling that we might have achieved something more than architecture.

    • Chris Perez
      Reply

      So glad you enjoyed this post Sidney, and thank you for your contributions. Our team has visited a few times this week, and remarked on how quickly this building is already becoming a part of people’s lives and routines.

      Everyone involved definitely achieved something that transcends architecture.

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