Austin Trip – Austin Central Library Talk & Tour

Austin Central Library – Library Design Talk and Full Tour

I returned to the Austin Central Library for another “Talk Green to Me” seminar about the sustainable design and features of the library, only this time I brought my grandma who wanted to see the new library and and city hall.

The seminar we attended was called, “A Deep Green Building Within a Green Neighborhood: presented by Lucia Athens, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Austin; Jonathan Smith, Associate Partner at Lake|Flato Architects; and Kathy Zarsky, the LEED Consultant for the new Austin Central Library.” — Austin Public Library Webpage

Here’s a picture of the panel members from our view on the lower floor demonstration area, where the previous seminar was held about Austin’s Sustainable Food Systems.

Jonathan Smith with Lake|Flato talked about the design of the building, specifically the systems behind the water harvesting and collection, the science behind the lighting and reflective designs, and the locally sourced materials and connection of the building to the outdoor space!

Kathy Zarsky, the founder and managing director of HOLOS, spoke on the topics of biomimicry and biophilia involved the the design of the library. Biomimicry, an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies, heavily influenced the aesthetics of the building from the natural muted colors for light reflection to the geology of the surround land on the rainwater harvesting directions to the shapes and forms of the various rooms and floors providing a softer sense of comfort!

Lucia Athens talked about the integration of the library with the surrounding area, specifically with Ladybird Lake and the Seaholm EcoDistrict. She pointed to the integration of the condensation capture system to water plants on the building and the diversion of excess water to the holding tanks in the former power plant across the street, the solar technologies in the surrounding neighborhood and the roof top solar panel covered observatory, as well as the local food systems tied with the nearby health restaurants!

Lucia concluded the presentation with some of the Austin Public Library’s book recommendations on the various topics discussed during the seminar, which are ones I hope to read!

After the seminar, my grandma and I went to the top floor of the library to explore and then work our way down floor by floor to see the designs and features on each level.

Below are picture views from the top floor down the interior stair case of the library. The large window across from the stairs let in enough light to illuminate the entire library with natural lighting on sunny day. From the small top floor window, you can see out to downtown Austin too!

We went outside to the roof-top garden and outdoor observatory, which was covered by the solar panels powering a portion of the library. In addition to the outdoor seating and tables, there was also a water station for hot days!

Here’s an additional view of the rooftop garden and the solar panel roof!

Can’t be in a spot like this without taking a couple of selfies!

This is the view from the library’s rooftop garden of Ladybird Lake and the other side of the river!

As we made our way down the floors, I came across this book cart featuring some of the other book recommendations from the seminar.


Returning to the Austin Central Library for a seminar about the design, decisions, and the sustainability features behind the building from the experts themselves was truly fascinating and put the library into context for me.

Hearing from individuals pushing progressive, sustainable design with a public was also really inspiring to know it’s actually happening in the world, especially in Texas!

I’m also glad I got to take my grandma to the library and city hall because she was dying to go see them both, and she really enjoyed our excursion together – even in the sweltering heat!




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