The Copper-Clad Library

by Rita Robison, Contributing Editor; Civil Engineering, 345 E. 47th St., New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1993, Vol. 63, Issue 10, Pg. 61-64

Document Type: Feature article


The design vocabulary for the new Phoenix Central Library includes saddlebags, power bellies, tensegrity and corrugated siding. The saddlebags are copper-clad, steel-framed core structures placed outside east and west walls of the precast concrete box that measures 163 ft by 350 ft. Power bellies transmit all services (including air conditioning) from the saddlebags to each floor. The roof is a tensegrity structure combined with a rigid deck purlin system that forms the 36 ft high ceiling of the fifth level main reading room. Copper corrugated siding covers the saddlebags, except for 30 ft strips of stainless steel over the east and west entrances. The north and south walls are 100% glazed, protected by exterior vertical fabric sails on the north and automated horizontal aluminum louvers on the south. A five-story atrium topped by an automated sun-tracking skylight pours daylight into all levels of the building, and skylights also penetrate the tensegrity roof structure. The library is adjacent to the I-10/Central Ave. intersection where the city has covered the Interstate with a plaza; it extends over the highway tunnel and over a city storm sewer, which required careful coordination between building and city engineers. Building costs and energy use are both well below normal for a library.

Subject Headings: Public buildings | Tension members | Light (natural) | Copper (chemical) | Buildings | Walls | Tensile structures

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