Design board gets peek at plans for new library

Architects presented their exterior, interior and landscape plans for the new Ramona Library to the Ramona Design Review Board on July 30, receiving mostly favorable comments for the Southwest/Tuscan-style building.

Because the review board did not receive official plans from the county, which is required for site plan approval, the presentation was considered a preliminary review to hear comments on the design, said board member Greg Roberson, who was the acting chairman at the meeting in Chair Carole Wylie’s absence. Roberson said that, if the board receives official plans next month, it could look at approval.

Philip Pape, architect and vice president of Ferguson, Pape, Baldwin Architects, is working with Manuel Oncina of Manuel Oncina Architects Inc. on the design of the new library.  Both firms have designed numerous civic buildings in San Diego County.  Recent libraries designed by Oncina include the Encinitas Community Library and the Carlsbad City Library Learning Center.  Pape’s firm also worked on the Carlsbad library as well as Poway Library.  

 The Ramona Library will be at Main and 13th streets and will be a strong corner element, said Oncina. While working with the Friends of the Ramona Library and the county, Oncina said, it was deemed important for the building “to stand out, be a presence.”

In designing the building, Oncina said he incorporated three styles: Tuscan, Southwest and a bit of Mediterranean. The renderings showed the exterior of the building with a stone called “El Dorado” in a “Pioneer” color that would be “laid in a ledger configuration reminiscent of Tuscan masonry work, he said. The exterior would also consist of stucco, which was shown in a deep orange hue.

“The building is somewhat unique because it has two entries,”  Oncina pointed out on the interior plans.

A pedestrian entry will be right off Main Street and another entry will be off the parking lot on 13th Street, close to disabled parking spaces. There will be a formal courtyard directly off the entry from the parking lot on the northwest side of the building.

The entries will be in a lobby area that will be 28 feet in height and will separate the community room and Friends of the Library store from a Great Room, Oncina said.

The Great Room, where the book stacks will be located, is a “new concept the county library is very strong at,” said Oncina. This concept, he explained, is “taking a library and making it more like a retail-like space.”  The Great Room will be 26 feet high and will be a large space. As opposed to libraries of old, this library will be flooded with light, Oncina said.

At the end of the Great Room, farthest away from the lobby area for security reasons, will be the children’s and teen’s areas.  The children’s area will be a circular space and “somewhat buffered from the other areas,” Oncina said. A supervised door will be provided for easy access during storytime or playtime activities to a turf area outside the children’s section.

The arched space that will be used in the entrance will be a grand, lofty space with large windows on both sides that will be louvered so there will be no direct sunlight, Oncina noted. Near the lobby area will be a 36-foot clock tower with a clock accessible on all four sides.

“This is a fairly big building. It will be quite a presence,” Oncina said.  

Because of the size, he said they wanted to make it approachable with a lower scale in front.  According to Oncina, the height of the building will be diminished as the building gets closer to the street or the parking lot.

“This affects the scale relationship between people and buildings, making the building respond to human scale more positively,” he explained.

Pape provided statistics on the proposed building, which will be almost 21,000 square feet.  There will be 70 parking spaces and 28 overflow parking stalls, along with four handicap-accessible spots and two spots for van parking, which, Pape said, exceeds the basic standards.  Dedicated carpool spots will also be included.

“We’re also striving for LEED certification on the project. Right now we’re teetering between silver and gold,” Pape said, referring to the green building certification system and its different levels.

He added that they are happy about the sustainable features of the building.

Oncina said the roof of the building will be a standing seam metal roof with photo voltaic cells on parts of its total area.

“This is a common roofing material for public buildings because of its longevity, low maintenance and architectural expression,” he explained.

Passing around a sample of the metal, he said it has a “bronze-ish“color but in sunlight it actually changes color. The glass in the building will be insulated, he said, but it will be clear.

Ling Chan of Van Dyke Landscape Architects discussed the trees, shrubs and other plants selected for the site. The only turf, she noted, would be outside the children’s area.  The plants, she said, would be geared to low water use and a Southwest climate.

Chan said there are a lot of succulents they have chosen that are low water use and fit in with Southern California, but that it will not look like xeriscaping.

With the Level 2 water alert, they will be able to use drip irrigation for most of the plants,  said Chan.   Trees will be planted to shade the parking lot.  

Board member Carol Close advised looking at plants that are frost-tolerant, which, she said, many architects in San Diego don’t consider.  She praised the choice of the ornamental pomegranate tree, which is very low on water use, and offered other plant and tree suggestions.

Rob Lewallen, also a board member, questioned the architects about using asphalt in the parking lot because it adds to the heat.  He suggested looking into grasscrete.

As far as the building itself, Lewallen said, “I kind of like the design. Trying to maintain community character with what we’ve got and what’s coming in can be a challenge.”  He suggested making the orange on the stucco more subdued. That was echoed by other board members.

Oncina said he can subdue the orange hue, but there needed to be some contrast with the stone that he said he picked because it had a Southwest look to it.

Board member Reed Settle said he wasn’t sure he associated the Tuscan style with Ramona.

“I really don’t get a sense of Ramona out of the building,” he commented. “That’s just my personal feeling.”  

Although board member Evelyn McCormack said she liked the clock tower and the floor plans, she said she felt the renderings exhibited a building that was a “little too structured,” and she suggested softening the look.

Board member Chris Anderson agreed that the look could be softened a bit but said she liked the rock and the louvered windows.

Dawn Perfect of the Ramona Intergenerational Community Center (RICC) said that the library will be a cornerstone of the RICC.

“I do really love the design,” she said, adding that it represents feedback and meshes with concepts for that part of town.

Pape noted that there will be an equestrian trail and a hitching post at the library.

Although the architects will have to wait until next month for approval from the Ramona Design Review Board, Oncina said, “We are very committed to the project and the community and look forward to building an exciting facility for Ramona.”

The Ramona Community Planning Group is scheduled to review the library plans at its meeting tonight, Aug. 6. The public meeting will be held in Ramona Community Center, 434 Aqua Lane, and will begin at 7.

   
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