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Open Volume by stephen sharpe project client Julia Yates Semmes Branch Library, San Antonio City of San Antonio architect Rehler, Vaughn & Koone design team Ken Rehler; Heath J. Wenrich; Liam Stagg contractor FMG Contracting Co. consultants Calle & Associates (civil); Lundy & Franke Engineering (structural); ms2 Consulting Engineers (MEP); Effective Water Management (irrigation); Fugro Consultants (geotechnical); George Schroeder (artist); Rehler Vaughn & Koone (interior, landscape) photographer Chris Cooper r e s o u r c e s metal decking : Vulcraft; entrances and storefronts : Kaw- neer; glass : AFDG Glass; structural glass curtainwall : Kawneer; metal roof specialty structure : 46 t e x a s MERO Structures a r c h i t e c t Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron and philanthropist who helped communities across the United States build public libraries, believed a library was more than just a place to borrow books. Carnegie saw the library as a refuge for the mind, the body, and the spirit. The Julia Yates Semmes Branch Library in far northeastern San Antonio addresses Carnegie’s vision with books to stimulate the mind, adjacent parkland to nurture the body, and public art to inspire the spirit. Opened in 2005 and designed by San Antonio architects Rehler Vaughn & Koone, the energyefficient building complements the rugged beauty of neighboring Comanche Lookout Park. The popular city park encompasses 96 acres on a scrub-covered hilltop that’s etched with hiking trails. A continuous, 18-foot-high glass wall along the library’s north side frames a captivating view out toward Comanche Lookout, the fourth-highest point in Bexar County – at 1,340 feet above sea level – that looms over the site. The hill was a prominent landmark for travelers along the Camino Real that linked San Antonio to Nacogdoches in East Texas and followed earlier American Indian trails. The existing landscape of juniper, huisache, and mesquite knits together the park and the library, with recent plantings of native vegetation around the building further grounding the new construction. The site’s terrain is a manifestation of the Cibolo Creek floodplain, a natural escarpment that runs parallel to the library. The floodplain was turned into a seasonal wetlands area during an upgrade of the existing parkland that was coordinated with the development of the library project to collect all parking lot surface rainwater. The main parking area is integrated into a grassy field and was planned to work around all existing trees. The design of the 15,975-sq. ft. library makes other physical connections to its site. Outside, under the building’s deep eaves – overhangs range from eight to 30 feet – terraced seating areas beckon visitors to enjoy their reading al fresco. Other outdoor amenities include an amphitheater 5 / 6 2 0 0 7

Texas Architect May/June 2007: San Antonio

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