Modernist Jewel in the Heart of Huntington Beach

August 28, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

The Huntington Beach library system has been around since 1909. Various buildings and locations around the city served the purpose as the community grew during the first half of the 20th century. The idea of building a new and larger library was approved in the late 1960s. The architectural firm of Richard and Dion Neutra was selected for the project. Richard Neutra died before the contract was signed so the design was realized by his son, Dion. The site of the new Central Library was a 350 acre park with a small lake. It was selected for its beauty and it's location, being central to the city's population. The Huntington Beach Central Library opened in 1975. 

The original design included an outdoor, spiral ramp that provided access to the lower level. In the early 1990's, however, an extension was approved for a new wing that would include a children's section, a theater and meeting rooms. The city awarded the project to the architectural firm of Anthony & Langford, whose design enclosed the spiral ramp. It's still there, but now it's indoors. I can't help but wonder how complimentary a Dion Neutra-designed extension might have been to his original concept. 

All pictures below are mine. 

Fun facts:

  • Richard Neutra was an Austrian architect who emigrated to America in the '20's (The 1920s, that is.) He was one of the giants of modernist architecture
  • The reflecting pool, which patrons can view from the reading decks toward the west of the building, is no longer reflecting; it has been dry since the drought got serious in Southern California  
  • From 1950 until the opening of the Central Library in 1975, the Main Street branch of the Huntington Beach Public Library served the city. The Main Street branch still functions in its original, modernist building which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Over the years I have donated hundreds of dollars in late fees to the Huntington Beach Public Library
  • I always paid my fines at the desk in the Media Center because a staff member once told me that fines paid there went into the library budget, whereas fines paid at the central check-out area go into the city's budget

Here is the northwest corner of the Central Library, showing the glass facade of the western wall and the dry floor of the reflecting pool and concrete waterfall: 

Huntington Beach Public LibraryHuntington Beach Public LibraryThe northwest corner and the glass facade of the western wall,...with the drought-stricken concrete waterfall and reflecting pool in the foreground.

The northwest corner again, this time showing the curved retaining wall for the reflecting pool:  Huntington Beach Public LibraryHuntington Beach Public LibraryIn the foreground is the curved retaining wall for the reflecting pool. The glass facade of the western wall is in the background.

Here is a night shot of the western wall when the reflecting pool had water in it some years ago. I still am unsure if I scanned the picture right side up or not:  Library ReflectedLibrary Reflected The western facade is shown in reflection, the water in the reflecting pool being so still on the night I shot this image that I have always had trouble know which side of the image is up.

This image is of the Middle Reading Deck. I think it provides a good idea of the space inside the library: The Middle Reading DeckThe Middle Reading DeckI think there are three reading deck levels. Maybe four if you count the upstairs magazine and periodicals section. This image provides a decent idea of style and ambiance inside the library.

This is the building in situ from across Talbert Lake: Huntington Beach Public LibraryHuntington Beach Public LibraryIn situ from across Talbert Lake.


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