Central Library--page 1 (of six pages)

Ricardo Legorreta

This Central Library is a six-story building in downtown San Antonio, made up essentially of rotated and cutaway boxes. Although it stands in the middle of a gray urban landscape, it stands out with bright colors and contrasting geometric shapes. This is least obvious on this, the entrance side, however, with its secluded entrance cut into the facade and the long flat-roofed parking garage to the right of the entrance. In fact, this side comes close to supporting the criticism that the library is foreboding, presenting a facade that isolates itself from the city in spite of the fact that it is right downtown. Look, however, at the other views of the library on the following pages, which show a colorful and joyful building, which in fact reflects the Spanish heritage of San Antonio.

This new library was the product of a design competition won by the renown Mexican architect, the late Ricardo Legorreta. A large building of about 240,000 square feet, it features several third-floor terraces, seen in the aerial view below, which are now unfortunately closed. The structure now seems closed within itself, a quite different concept from other buildings designed by Legorreta, where there is an interplay of nature and the built world. (See, for example, the numerous courtyards and open walkways in his other works.)

The west side

Technically, this facade could be called the front since the entrance is on this side, but is the least interesting facade.

West side at bottom of aerial view

The parking garage is to the right, with the entrance to the library in the space between the two structures. The circular delivery driveway between the buildings points the way to the somewhat hidden entrance.

The northwest corner

There is no entrance here and floor to ceiling mirrors are at the intersections of the cylinder and the straight walls.

The entrance


Unusual fenestration

The square boxed windows are common in Legorreta's buildings; tall narrow slit windows protect books from sun damage.

Left: looking toward the garage; center and right: views of the entrance

Continue to page 2.

For other works by Legorreta on this site, see this index.

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© 2013 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.