Type: Other
Definition: New


Owner: City of Phoenix
Architect: Line and Space, LLC
Masonry Contractor: Sutter Masonry
General Contractor: Linthicum Constructors, Inc.
Structural Engineer: Caruso Turley Scott
Masonry Supplier: Quality Block Co., Inc.

The Cesar Chavez Library is located within the existing Cesar Chavez Park an important part of the township of Laveen. The park is the backyard for the community and includes an existing man-made lake that is heavily used by residents for recreation purposes. The library aims to preserve the function of the adjacent lake and the environmental quality of the park while providing a place of respite, learning, and living room for the residents of the surrounding community. The Cesar Chavez Library strives to integrate seamlessly into its site and respond in an ecologically sensitive way to the severe conditions presented by its location in the Sonoran Desert and unique conditions presented by the surrounding park context.

Reflecting the geometry of the adjacent lake, the arced form of the library is incised into an existing earth mound, a remnant from the lake’s excavation, quietly integrating it into the public parkscape. Not only does this earth integration make the library feel visually connected to the land, it provides heat mitigating thermal mass (minimizing heating and cooling energy use) in addition to privacy and a barrier from traffic noise emanating from Baseline Road. Center-scored concrete masonry was well-suited to create the curved walls desired. In Phoenix, high quality masonry is readily available. Concrete masonry’s intrinsic quality of thermal mass, natural fire-resistance, long life, and its low maintenance costs make it an environmentally sound material, allowing the architects to achieve their design concepts.

In response to the harsh climatic conditions of the Sonoran Desert, the Cesar Chavez Library is oriented so the glass primarily faces north and south, allowing natural daylight to fill interior spaces with little or no direct sun. The west elevation is designed with no windows to mitigate direct solar heat gain, reducing demand on the mechanical system. Extended concrete masonry walls meld the building into the park’s landscape to retain earth, serve as a windbreak, and provide critical shade on outdoor areas when the sun is low on the horizon.

The Cesar Chavez Library contributes to environmental awareness by outwardly expressing new approaches to recycling and resource conservation. A reading room under the overhang on the north provides a comfortable outdoor space that can be used year-round. Here, mechanically cooled exhaust air is recycled, redirected from the building interior into this area, creating a tempered microclimate. Adjustable spot diffusers allow users to fine-tune their environment, increasing the patio’s comfort and usability.

Anticipated to receive LEED silver certification, the Cesar Chavez Library stands as a physical example of sustainability, teaching lessons of environmental awareness to its patrons. Rainwater collection and storage drive the design of the roof for the library while using the existing conditions of the site for storage of the collected rainwater. 100% of rainwater falling on the 37,000 sq ft sculptural roof – nearly 140,000 gallons a year – is collected, stored in the lake, and reused for irrigation. The quantity of water collected annually balances the total water use for flushing the library’s toilets. The library enhances existing environmental conditions of the park by adding collected rainwater to the lake, while not disturbing the lake’s function.

The library’s impact on the lives of people in the area is evidenced by their use of the facility. Teens have their own space at the library and their own programs, including a skate boarding/roller derby, volunteer opportunities, a Library Teen Council and a Teen Reading Room. Adults participate in free computer classes in English and Spanish. The library has become a space where the community meets in a beautiful location within a building that is conducive to learning, relaxing, and discussing ideas – truly the living room of the community.

This project won the National Concrete Masonry Association's 2007 Design Award of Excellence, Commercial category.