Volume 39, Issue 9, September  2004

On the Cover

An open building for open books. That, in a nutshell, is how architect Steve Crane, FAIA, summarizes the design philosophy behind the new Salt Lake City Public Library, a shimmering diamond of light and glass that has become this city’s newest architectural landmark.

The library actually encompasses three structures: a triangle-shaped main building that’s tucked cozily between a long, swooping crescent wall and a rectangular administration building. It is the handiwork of Crane’s firm, VCBO Architecture of Salt Lake City, and a renowned collaborator, Moshe Safdie & Associates of Boston.

Glass is, without question, the building’s signature design element; but Crane also takes pride in the building’s energy efficiency and other strong environmental attributes. For instance, one of the library’s many architectural highlights is a lens wall that collects heat and traps it in a large, multi-story chamber. When temperatures drop, the warm air is recirculated to ease the strain on the building’s artificial heating and cooling systems.

Not coincidentally, energy efficiency also factored heavily into the specification of glass for the structure. 

A Team Effort
Crane’s team specified Solarban® 60 Glass, a solar control low-E glass from PPG Industries, to glaze the curtainwalls, lens wall and a massive $1.2 million skylight. Because of the enormity of the project, and the numerous technical challenges involved in negotiating the building’s complex curves and geometry, four glazing contractors participated in the project.

Steel Encounters Inc. (SEI) constructed the lens and curtainwalls, while Linford Brothers Glass designed and installed the main skylight. Punched openings were managed by B&D Glass and two smaller skylights were manufactured by Aladdin Industries Inc. All four firms are from the Salt Lake City area. Northwestern Industries Inc. (NWI) of Seattle fabricated the glass.

Clearly Practical
In the initial design stages, Moshe Safdie considered housing the library in ultra-clear glass, but then he and his collaborator ultimately decided on something a little more practical. 

“We obviously wanted to take advantage of the views the site offered, but we also had to be realistic,” said Crane. “We’re exposed to some pretty harsh conditions out here with the sun and the cold.”

The solution, according to Crane, was Solarban 60.“It reads transparent from the outside,” he said. “You can’t see any color at all, and the glass is highly energy efficient.”

Design and Fabrication
Crane said it was NWI’s capability to manage several complex design and scheduling challenges that helped them secure the Salt Lake City project.

For instance, NWI worked closely with Linford Brothers Glass to design, fabricate and install a $1.2 million dollar skylight, which provides a sky-filled canopy for the library’s interior plaza, connecting the library’s swooping crescent wall with the building’s main triangle.

Paul Bryant, a customer service manager for NWI, said the project alone involved the fabrication of more than 400 different laminated units of glass, some measuring as large as 25 square feet. Not one piece of glass had a square corner and no two pieces were exactly the same size or shape.

“The layout took many hours,” said Bryant, “but we were able to put it together without cutting a single piece of glass incorrectly.”

The fabrication of glass for the crescent wall was equally demanding. As the wall wends gracefully from one end of the library plaza to the other, it sweeps further and further away from the building it engulfs, stretching at its greatest length, more than 21 feet from the main building’s vertical wall. As a result of this complex design, each column of glass in the crescent wall had to be fabricated differently to accommodate the ever-changing angles of its steel skeleton.

The Final Chapter
The Salt Lake City Public Library recently celebrated two milestones—its first anniversary and three millionth visitor. Measuring more than 237,000 square feet, the facility contains more than 500,000 books and other materials, with plenty of room to expand. 


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