The Golden Gate Valley Branch Library used to be fluorescently lit, faded, worn, and dingy. But on Saturday, after two years of restoration, the Beaux-Arts building reopened with a more modern look, new computers and chairs, and Chinese dancers welcoming back patrons. SF architects Bobbie Fisch of Tom Eliot Fisch Architects and Paulett Taggart of Paulett Taggart Architects. Together they designed a new addition and oversaw the rehabilitation of the branch. “We wanted it to be a good intervention but to not really show,” says Fisch. “We wanted to maintain as much of the historic fabric as possible.”
The 93-year-old library needed more than just a new coat of paint. The architects had to first make it handicap accessible and then give it a seismic upgrade the structure. The initial plans for accessibility included an 80-foot long ramp that would have detracted from the classic exterior. Instead, Fisch and Taggart decided that an addition toward the back of the building was a better option.
“New shouldn’t mimic the old,” says Taggart. “The new part plays off the colors of the old. It’s simple.” The architects even chose to leave a corner of the old structure visible in the space. The new entrance to the library is around the back and through a courtyard. “It’s both complimentary and in the background,” Taggart said. Inside the transitional space, an elevator or a set of stairs bring visitors to the main level or down to the renovated meeting room.
Making the new entrance not show was one thing, but seismically retrofitting it was another. The process included installing metal support beams inside the existing walls and under the original terracotta roof. Each tile was carefully removed and saved until it was time for them to be reinstalled. Through the reuse of materials and the installation of greener gadgets, the library has been brought up to LEED gold standards and is waiting to be certified.
1801 Green St. (at Octavia) 415-355-5666