The city of Austin built a new central library to serve its citizens, and in designing the building, chose perforated anodized aluminum as a central façade design element.
Opened to the public in October 2017, the new 200,000-sq.-ft. Austin Central Library makes full use of the functional and aesthetic benefits of the perforated anodized aluminum panels. Many panels provide shade for the building and its entrances, while one large panel incorporates literary quotations that are visible on the building’s floor as light shines through the metal, and all of the panels add to the overall building aesthetic.
The library was designed by architects from Lake Flato Architects and Shepley Bulfinch to be a gathering place for all of the citizens of Austin, with a large, six-story atrium intended to function as “the new living room for Austin,” explained Jonathan Smith of Lake Flato Architects. Around the edges of the atrium, there are a variety of spaces designed for different kinds of activities, including public computers, shared learning rooms, co-working spaces, and more.
The building is situated on a site that functions as a gateway to downtown Austin so the exterior of the building was designed to suit the site itself and to be in conversation with surrounding buildings, including the city hall building just four blocks away. Much of the building façade is constructed with local limestone, and on the south side, cantilevering off the building, is a metal façade component that serves as a set of large, screened-in porches overlooking the nearby lake.
Early, architects knew they wanted a unique exterior, and knew that they wanted to use aluminum for its low weight and high recycled content, since the building is on track for LEED Platinum certification. In particular, the architects wanted corrugated, perforated aluminum with a deeper, more three-dimensional look than paint could offer to be part of the screened porch section of the building exterior.
The search for such a material led them to Lorin Industries, a leader in continuous coil anodizing of aluminum, which not only provides the kind of textured, three-dimensional appearance that the architects were searching for, but also protects the metal from corrosion, ensuring durability and a long lifespan.
The panels feature different levels of perforation based on where in the project they are, with different patterns or percentages of the metal open to provide more shade or greater visibility. Panels of the Lorin anodized aluminum fold off the façade and become the entry canopies over the three main entries of the building, providing shade and a unified exterior appearance.
The lightweight attribute of the panels was important in the structural design of the building, as its simpler connections helped to save costs for the public building. Additionally, the durability of Lorin anodized aluminum will preserve both the aesthetic and practical functions of the metal panels throughout the life of the building.