Texas Architect May/June 2006: Nature

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stretch of Military Drive centered on the library before veering to the left. The purple mass of the building acts as an intermediate goal, a node – if not a place – along the way. The purple hue – called periwinkle by the architects – is bright and bold and yet has a contextual quality in that it almost blends with the sky. This purple wedge, rising toward the street, is nearly windowless, heightening its landmark quality. After parking and approaching the library, one discovers that the rest of the building, to the back of the lot, is clad in vertical panels of standing-seam metal finished in a gray close in tone to raw beadblasted steel. It reflects well the purple of the adjacent stucco. The application of roof technology to wall sheathing is a trend that is translating prosaic pre-engineered building technology into a new architectural vocabulary. The pragmatics of metal and synthetic stucco establish pared-down detailing, forcing the architect to find new ways to bring visual delight to the design, as well as innovative articulation that expresses the parts and yet joins them into a convincing whole. Sprinkle Robey accomplished this articulation through a tight handling of off-the-shelf metal components, and by manipulating the control joints required by large planes of stucco. The architects used the control joints to create a Mondrian-esque pattern of offset rectangles in the purple stucco. The stucco was then applied in three different textures, creating subtle reflective variations in a material often considered intrinsically featureless. Likewise, the metal skin is used to articulate recessed window niches in the south facade, where corrugated-metal siding runs horizontally rather than vertically. By repeating the horizontal corrugations on the back and north side of the building, the architects transform the standing-seam siding on the south facade into a formal statement that marks it as the front of the building. The horizontal orientation also creates strong shadow lines that add visual interest. The building expands

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(this page) Wedge-shaped and faced in periwinkle stucco, the new branch library creates its own idiosyncratic context in a non-descript San Antonio neighborhood. (opposite page) A fanciful, bright orange reading nook draws attention to the children’s area.

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