Why I Love Public Architecture

Alan Butler AIA

The career of an architect has its highs and lows. If we are lucky and engaged in our profession we get a chance to design some great buildings. I have been both fortunate and proud of what I have done in the last three decades of practice. Every so often an event occurs that really gives you a sense of the value of what we do.

SRJC Petaluma Student Experience_TLCD Architecture

This morning I attended an end of the year breakfast presented by the Friends of the Petaluma Campus Trust. In the course of the presentation, three first generation college students spoke; Kim Baptista, a full-time parent and cancer survivor; W. Jamar Minor, an Air Force veteran and transplant from Akron, Ohio, and Adriana Lopez Torres, a Mexican born “Dreamer” raised in rural Marin County. The stories of the opportunities and support that the college and staff have been able to provide them with were extremely moving. Even more impressive was their own determination to push on despite a host of cultural, physical and financial obstacles. It was their teachers, counselors, and staff that really made this happen. As architects we just provided a good place for those things to happen. Their lives will be truly different from those of their parents and the college has made it possible.

For nearly 30 years I have been working on the development of the Petaluma Campus of Santa Rosa Junior College. When I began, the campus was a group of portable buildings behind the giant plaster chicken at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds. In 1995, I was immensely proud to be at the dedication of the first phase of the new campus built on a forty-acre site in east Petaluma. Almost 15 years later I was even more proud as the second phase of the campus’ development ushered in a new era for Petaluma,  providing a full range of community college opportunities. As with most building dedications, we accept the accolades, head home, and don’t often get a chance to appreciate the post-occupancy life of the buildings. Hearing the student’s personal stories reminds me of how proud I am to have played a part in an institution that can have such transformative results. It is personal stories like these that really make my professional life worthwhile.


TLCD Supports Mendocino College at Gala on the Green

On Saturday, June 1st, 300+ supporters of Mendocino College gathered for Gala on the Green, a fundraiser for the Mendocino College Foundation. A huge tent and colorfully decorated tables filled the new plaza between the Library and Learning Resource Center and the new Lowery Student Center, both designed by TLCD Architecture. It was a spectacular setting overlooking a sweeping view of the Ukiah Valley to the south.

Auction items and a wine tasting were hosted in the Lowery Student Center, opened to public viewing for the first time on Saturday. The building will house campus food service, the bookstore and student activities spaces. Students from the Culinary program prepared a great meal served by a corps of MESA program students in white shirts all marching in procession with some of the best crab cakes to be had. Live music was provided by Van and the Swells and added to the wonderful ambiance of the evening.

Having been closely involved in work at the campus, TLCD found it richly rewarding to see the new “town square” for the campus used so effectively and appreciated by the community.

Alan Butler Publishes Experiencing Libraries Book


By Alan Butler AIA
Senior Principal, TLCD Architecture

Nearly a decade ago, I typed up a one-page list of things to look for in the libraries we were visiting with a stakeholder group from Napa Valley College. That list morphed into a workbook called Touring Libraries, first printed in 2005. Thirty thousand photographs later, and after touring libraries throughout the United States and Europe, a new book called Experiencing Libraries has been born. This edition was published through the online service Blurb and will soon be available in hard bound, soft cover, and e-book versions.

Experiencing Libraries Spread

When non-designers visit other libraries it is often difficult for them to understand and articulate the qualities and functions of the spaces they are visiting. This book guides them though the library from the site, to the front door and to all facets of the library. In addition to basic library space uses it includes sections on such topics as community rooms, way finding, loading docks and HVAC systems. The book is helpful both as a tour guide and as a tool for programming and plan evaluation. Written with library programmer Will Baty, whom  TLCD Architecture has worked with on 4 of our recent library projects, we hope to find an institutional publisher such as the American Library Association in order to share it with a wider audience.

You can preview or purchase a copy at the TLCD Bookstore:


3 TLCD Projects Receive NBBJ Top Project Awards

Mendocino College Library and Learning Resource Center
Mendocino College Library and Learning Resource Center

Last evening 3 of TLCD Architecture’s projects were recognized by the North Bay Business Journal as Top Projects in the region.  Each year the Business Journal recognizes outstanding projects in the North Bay in several categories.

Mendocino College Library and Learning Resource Center received a Top Project award in the ‘Green’ category, recognizing a project that exemplified sustainable design.  This is the second year in a row that TLCD Architecture received an award in this category.  This project features numerous “green” features including daylight harvesting, a highly efficient mechanical system, and a green (vegetated) roof.

Roseland Creek Elementary School
Roseland Creek Elementary School

Roseland Creek Elementary School, Roseland School District’s first new elementary school to be constructed in 50 years received the K-12 Education award.  This 2-story school features exceptional indoor and outdoor learning environments.  It too is a model of sustainability, and significantly outperforms stringent Title 24 requirements.

Luther Burbank Savings Headquarters Branch
Luther Burbank Savings Headquarters Branch

The winning entry in the Finance category was Luther Burbank Savings Headquarters Branch in downtown Santa Rosa, which opened for business earlier this week.  Defined by cherry colored exterior wood panels and crisp aluminum details, this highly visible project at the entry to downtown is hard to miss.

Delivering Educational Services at Rural Community Colleges

Rendering of Mendocino College’s Willits Center Satellite Campus | TLCD Architecture

On Friday November 2nd, the Los Angeles Times ran a story written by Lee Romney highlighting the many issues confronting rural Community Colleges: Rural Community Colleges Face Distinct Challenges. Featuring long-time TLCD client Mendocino College, the article also includes a photo gallery with a number of images of life on the College’s Ukiah campus. Describing the role of Mendocino College in the communities it serves, the article discusses the coming changes that may impact both its role in those communities and the courses and services it can offer its students. Highlighting TLCD’s recently completed Library and Learning Center as an indication of the kind of investment the District has made to provide first-class facilities for its student population, the community’s strong support for the College is demonstrated by the resources residents have committed to this district.

Rural community colleges operate within a particular set of constraints. With smaller student populations spread over geographically large regions, the ability to deliver educational services can in part be related to student’s access to facilities. We have seen through our work with Yuba College on their Student Center in Clearlake as well as our ongoing projects with Mendocino College for their Lake Center and the Willits Center campuses, how the strategic addition of satellite facilities can greatly expand a community colleges’ ability to serve their students and their communities by improving student’s access. Encompassing classrooms, computer resource facilities, small libraries/ learning centers, and faculty offices, satellite campuses can provide access to college facilities without the need to travel to the main campus.

Development of the support infrastructure including production facilities and purpose-designed distance education classrooms for implementation of technologies such as Yuba College’s eLearning and Mendocino College’s Distance Education programs can further serve to broaden access to educational opportunities available to rural community college students.

Yuba College – Clearlake Campus Nearing Completion!

Just in time for the Fall semester…… the Clearlake Campus modernization is wrapping up. Completed in just over 1 year, the campus has been transformed with three new buildings. These additions allow administration services to be located in the same building, the Culinary Arts program to expand with the latest cooking equipment and teaching aids, and for the Science Department to begin offering Anatomy classes due to the inclusion of a Wet Lab and Cadaver Room. Kudos go to Sundt Construction for meeting a tight construction schedule, in often very demanding conditions.

There has also been recent buzz in the local press. The Lake County Record-Bee has been keeping their eye on this project, letting the local citizens know that they have an amenity that adds real value to Lake County community. The entire Yuba College Community, Students and Staff alike, deserve my sincere thank you for remaining upbeat, energetic and commited throughout this lengthy process. They can all now take advantage of the modernized facility well into the future.

Library and Administration Building
Library Interior

Yuba Community College – Clearlake Campus – Student Services Center

After a wet spring and a mild summer we have now completed “Increment 1 – Site Package” for the Yuba Community College Student Services Center. The program is incorporated into three buildings and is quite varied, combining Administration Services, Learning Resource Center and Career Center, Library, Culinary Arts, and Science Clasrooms (including a Cadaver Room for Anatomy classes). The design team has worked closely with Sundt Construction to meet a schedule of preparing the site building pads, adding Rammed Aggregate Piers, and providing new parking and fire access roads, ahead of the Fall semester, which started in late September. The second part of the project: Increment 2 – Building Package was approved by the Division of the State Architect and as of late September is well under way. The footings have been poured and we are moving quickly toward the slab on grade pours. After that, the students and staff will start to see steel and wood framing for the walls. The project is scheduled for completion in summer 2012, so that the Owner can take occupancy in the Fall of 2012.

McCarthy Library Receives 3form Contest Award

The McCarthy Library has earned the “Stone Cold Gorgeous” Award in the 5th Annual People’s Choice 3form Installation Contest. We are thrilled that so many people voted for the Library in this contest, which marks the third award recognition for the building!  3form was used in the ‘floating classroom’ that projects into the high-volume day-lit reading room of the Library. View all of the contest winners and check out what people had to say about the Library.

McCarthy Library Receives Merit Award at the AIARE 2010 Design Awards


It was a great win for TLCD this past Saturday at the AIA Redwood Empire Chapter 2010 Design Awards. Napa Valley College’s McCarthy Library, which was completed in 2009, received the Merit Award in the Built Category. With 57 entries in total, the 2010 competition was one of the toughest yet. Projects ranged from private residences to large education facilities, backyard studios to estate wineries. During the awards ceremony, local architects and their invited guests meandered through the banquet hall to view presentation boards for the submitted projects.

While we all settled into our chairs for the awards announcement, there was a tiny hum of excitement across the hall. Wendy Young, AIARE Executive Director, started off the awards by thanking the sponsors and expressing how great it was to have so many talent individuals gathered in one space.

When McCarthy Library was revealed as the winner of the 2010 Merit Award, a huge round of applause came from the TLCD peanut gallery.  Senior Principal Alan Butler accepted the award on behalf of the TLCD team and appreciated the hard work and creativity that made the McCarthy Library a reality.  Check out the submission photos for the McCarthy Library in the slideshow above. To view the full list of all of the Design Awards entries, visit the AIARE website.

NVC Presentation of the McCarthy Library

NVC library

History was made at Napa Valley College yesterday afternoon.  Around four o’clock, a large group of community members, campus staff and administrators, librarians, architects, contractors, engineers, parents, friends, and students gathered for the opening of the new McCarthy Library.  “This new building,” as described by Interim Superintendent/President Armond Phillips, “will be the hub of campus activity and a place for student learning and achievement for years to come.”  The building is appropriately dedicated to the late NVC president, Chris McCarthy who advocated for student learning throughout his career. The short presentation also included a few heartfelt words from Dean of Library and Learning Resources Bonnie Thoreen, Vice President of Instruction Sue Nelson, and Director of Campus Planning and Construction Dan TerAvest.  The presentation was concluded with a reading of “The Library,” a poem by Napa Valley Poet Laureate, Gary Silva.

The event proceeded with self-guided tours of the new building, live music, and food service from the new cafe.  The mood was grand in celebration of this beautiful new building.  The only argument I overheard was between a group of librarians debating who had the coolest office!

Congratulations to the TLCD team and everyone involved with this project.  It is something you should all be very, very proud of.

Napa LLRC and Great Skies

View of the NVC LLRC from the plaza February 5, 2010

On Friday February 5, Jeff and I were on our way back from investigating the Dixon Public Library and stopped by the Napa Valley College Library site. It  was one of those lucky breaks in the weather where the light and clouds were just perfect, a day that professional photographers wait eagerly for.  The project is really coming along on the exterior. The plaza paving is  going in and the exterior features are becoming more evident. A crew was just starting the Rheinzinc paneling on the east side, most of the fascia panels are in and “The Wall” with its ochre colored Venetian plaster is spectacular. The plaza is going to be a great civic  space. In the large view  you can see one of two  raised outdoor stages that will really help activate the plaza and make it a great venue for a variety of  activities. Views out from the cafe  and  the plaza really make the space even more dramatic. There are some really great views from the interior including the gallery walkway leading up  to the second floor  that you can see at  the left side of the  larger view. From the floating classroom in the  middle  of the  main library floor there is a panoramic view  out through the clerestory windows  to  the  west and the Napa River floodplain.
I  look forward to the  completion with eager anticipation.

The Wall

CHICAGO-Three Buildings

Tuesday at noon I’ll be presenting three buildings I visited in Chicago in early November. The New Modern Wing of the Chicago Art Institute is Renzo Piano’s latest work in the US. The daylighting of the galleries is spectacular. I also visited the Klarchek Information Commons at Loyola University of Chicago. This three story commons sits at the edge of Lake Michigan and uses a very sophisticated natural ventilation system. The Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies is the newest landmark on Michigan Avenue. The faceted  glass facade encloses gallery and library spaces within a daylit lobby. The detailing of this  building is very nice. Hope to see you at noon on Tuesday.–Alan

On the Road with Alan- Klarchek Information Commons

This morning I toured the Klarchek Information Commons at Loyola University of Chicago. This is a new high tech computer and learning commons inserted between the old library and the campus chapel. It is a dramatic glass structure that sits right on the edge of Lake Michigan, so much so that it feels like sitting in a vast infinity pool. I got an extensive tour from the facility manager and the head reference librarian. Some good lessons learned and a validation that we are doing a lot right with our library projects.
This building has a very innovative ventilation scheme involving both displacement and natural ventilation. Check out the link for an informative piece on the design of the building: http://www.scb.com/files/15.pdf
Its double glazed façade creates a convective stack that draws air from the operable windows on the lakefront.
Klarchek ExtKlarchek InteriorKlarchek

Napa Valley College Library

On Friday October 23 Brian and I were at Napa Valley College for a memorial service for Dr. Chris McCarthy. Chris, and he is the only college president I know who was called by most by his first name, passed away unexpectedly a few weeks ago. It was a very moving and somewhat unusual service for Napa’s poet-president. The ceremony started with a bagpipe trio playing Amazing Grace and as we walked out the background music was Tom Waits singing Waltzing Matilda. If we could all leave a legacy of such kindness and attention to others, what a wonderful world it would be.
We did get a chance to walk through the new library which is progressing well towards completion next spring. What impressed me the most was the quality of the light inside. It is a testament both to Nate’s design and the daylight modeling we did. The reading room will be spectacular!

Main Reading Room Napa Valley College Library 10-09
Main Reading Room Napa Valley College Library 10-09

SRJC Herold Mahoney Library Wins CCFC Award of Merit

Herold Mahoney Library

The Community College Facility Coalition announced last week that the Herold Mahoney Library won a 2009 Award of Merit! As part of the Phase II Campus Expansion, the Herold Mahoney Library represents the cultural and architectural heart of Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma site. TLCD is very proud of this project and feels honored by the award.