Entry number: B09017
Project Name: Foothills Branch Library
Building Type: Public Library Branch
Completion Date: Fall 2008
Building Location: 13226 S Frontage Road, Yuma, AZ
Type of Construction: VB - Steel frame
Materials Used: Cor-Ten, rammed earth, cement fiber board, plaster
Building Area: 15,230 sf
Architecture Firm: Pugsley. Simpson. Coulter. Architects
Architect of Record: Pugsley. Simpson. Coulter. Architects
Client/Owner/Developer: Yuma County Library District
Interior Designer: Pugsley. Simpson. Coulter. Architects
Landscape Architect: Patterson Thompson Architects
Electrical Engineer: JOL Enterprises, Inc.
Structural Engineer: Walter P. Moore & Associates
Mechanical Engineer: Sternco Mechanical Engineering
Civil Engineer: Dahl Robins & Associates
General Contractor: DPE Construction
Photographer: Sean L. Coulter, AIA, LEED AP
Statement of Design Approach:
The Foothills Branch Library is a 15,200 s.f. facility located in the Foothills area 8 miles
east of Yuma, AZ. The flat 4-acre site is situated adjacent to Interstate 8 between
the Gila Mountains to the north and east and the Colorado River basin stretching to
Mexico 20 miles to the south. The library consists of 3 major functional zones:
administration, public-use (multi-purpose room, gallery, etc.) and book-stack areas.
The administration block contains offices, book-sorting and storage. The public-use
area is used for public functions not necessarily related to library functions, such as
town-hall meetings, art displays etc. While the book-stack area contains adult fiction
and non-fiction, young people’s library, teen library and computer stations.
The material palette was kept simple and homogenous to each of the three forms as
described above: cor-ten steel, concrete fi ber-board and locally-mined stone.
Since the advent of digital media, libraries have struggled with an identity crisis - what do they want to be? Are they
museums for ‘archaic’ books or are they the new Blockbuster, renting pop-culture videos? These are the type of
questions that were raised during the programming process. The Yuma Library District new exactly what they wanted
their library to be, they wanted it to bring people together. The Foothills area of Yuma is comprised of 80%
retirees that used the existing library as a meeting place to converse and connect with community neighbors. Of the
retirees, a vast majority are ‘snowbirds’, only living in Yuma for six months out of the year. As a result, the youth were not
using the existing library to its fullest potential, feeling ‘left-out’ and not catered to. Therefore, the primary
challenges the Yuma Library District set for the design team were to increase materials circulation and attract more
youth and teenagers to the library; in short, they wanted the library to bring the community, as whole, together in one
location. How does one ‘connect’ with a nomadic people and create a sense of place for them as well as attract
the local youth? The design teams’ approach was to create a ‘community living room’ based on connections. These
connections are both physical and metaphysical. On a more metaphysical level, the building allows for people to
converse in an open and spacious environment, creates a comfortable and relaxing environment, contains simple,
yet interesting architectural forms, materials that challenge the senses and colors that evoke the beauty of the Sonora
Desert. On a physical level, the building functions effectively by essentially being one large open space that is
easy to navigate. This openness allows for people to explore the library bookstacks freely, feel safe, connect people
physically to the desert with panoramic views to the mountains, check out the latest mystery novel, access the internet
through databases unique to libraries, offer facilities that are welcoming and appropriate for young people and offer
programs that attract not only the typical patron, but the local youth. The hope of the design team is that
by considering these connections, the facility will function on both a physical and metaphysical level. In Italo Calvino’s
Invisible Cities, Marco Polo is speaking to a frustrated Kublai Kahn trying to reconcile, in his head, the perfect space
- “seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure,
give them space.”
In a small community such as Yuma, it can be difficult to convince people of the importance
of sustainability. Therefore, the design team began to educate the client on the benefits of
a sustainable facility. As the project progressed, the client took it upon themselves to learn
about sustainable solutions that would be feasible to them.
In a small community that sees the construction of a new library only once every 50 years or
so, budgets are kept to a minimum. Also, working with the facilities department of the Library
District, we developed sustainable solutions that did not require special knowledge to operate
or maintain. Therefore, most of the solutions implemented were passive techniques specific to
a harsh desert environment.
Site orientation was the first consideration. The buildings long axis was kept to an east-west
orientation. This allows for daylight to filter into the bookstack area on the north side of the
building, this also allows for views to the Gila Mountains to the north and east of the site. The
more functional spaces, such as storage, book-sorting, etc. were kept on the south side of the
building where minimal fenestration was used.
Material selection is based on local availability and cohesiveness with the desert environment.
Recycled cor-ten steel is used on the administration block due to its durability and minimal
maintenance. The bookstack block is clad in a dusty blue cement fiber-board that is 100%
recycled material and is extremely durable. The public-use block is also clad in a green
cement fiber-board reminiscent of the green leaves on the indigenous ocotillo cactus.
On the northern portion of the site, a leach field is being used. This has helped in the reduction
of cost to install sewer lines connecting to the local sewer system.
Though these are simple sustainable solutions, they are effective for this client and gives them
energy savings, minimal maintenance and longevity they were expecting in their new facility.