Billie Jean King Main Library

Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King Library timber construction
Billie Jean King Library

More than a traditional library, this facility provides a welcoming and flexible environment for the diverse community of Long Beach, California. A heavy timber structural system significantly reduced the carbon impact of construction.

Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2019
  • Design Finish Year 2016
  • Size Site Area: 1.79 acres Building Height: 46 feet Number of Stories: 2 Building Gross Area: 93,500 square feet
  • Awards
    2020, Construction Innovation, Institution of Structural Engineers 2020, Award of Merit, Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards, SEAOSC, Structural Engineers Association of Southern California 2020, Dezeen Awards, Dezeen 2020, National Architecture Awards, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2020, Design Awards, AIA California 2020, A+ Awards, Architizer 2021, ASCE MLAB 2021 Structural Engineering Award, American Society Of Civil Engineers 2021, Award of Excellence: Renovation, ASCE AEI PPA, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) 2020, Best of Design Awards, The Architect's Newspaper 2020, Construction Innovation, Institution of Structural Engineers 2020, Best of Year Awards, Interior Design 2020, Innovation By Design Awards, Fast Company 2020, Design Awards, AIA – Los Angeles Chapter 2020, Architecture Awards, Los Angeles Business Council 2020, ALA Library Building Awards, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2020, Wood Design Award, U.S. WoodWorks 2020, Library Interior Design Awards, International Interior Design Association 2021, Best Overall Project Under 100 Million, ASCE AEI PPA, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) 2021, Design Awards, Westside Urban Forum 2021, Award of Merit: Construction Management & Methods, ASCE AEI PPA, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI)
  • Sustainability Certifications LEED BD+C NC (New Construction) Platinum, BD+C, Platinum
Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2019
  • Design Finish Year 2016
  • Size Site Area: 1.79 acres Building Height: 46 feet Number of Stories: 2 Building Gross Area: 93,500 square feet
  • Awards
    2020, Construction Innovation, Institution of Structural Engineers 2020, Award of Merit, Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards, SEAOSC, Structural Engineers Association of Southern California 2020, Dezeen Awards, Dezeen 2020, National Architecture Awards, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2020, Design Awards, AIA California 2020, A+ Awards, Architizer 2021, ASCE MLAB 2021 Structural Engineering Award, American Society Of Civil Engineers 2021, Award of Excellence: Renovation, ASCE AEI PPA, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) 2020, Best of Design Awards, The Architect's Newspaper 2020, Construction Innovation, Institution of Structural Engineers 2020, Best of Year Awards, Interior Design 2020, Innovation By Design Awards, Fast Company 2020, Design Awards, AIA – Los Angeles Chapter 2020, Architecture Awards, Los Angeles Business Council 2020, ALA Library Building Awards, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2020, Wood Design Award, U.S. WoodWorks 2020, Library Interior Design Awards, International Interior Design Association 2021, Best Overall Project Under 100 Million, ASCE AEI PPA, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) 2021, Design Awards, Westside Urban Forum 2021, Award of Merit: Construction Management & Methods, ASCE AEI PPA, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI)
  • Sustainability Certifications LEED BD+C NC (New Construction) Platinum, BD+C, Platinum

A new community hub

Located in the civic center of Long Beach, California, the Billie Jean King Main Library fosters community, learning, and collaboration. The welcoming and flexible building serves the city’s diverse population with a variety of spaces including group study rooms, independent work areas, and a technology-driven “makerspace” with a learning lab and 3D printers. An independently operated community center with meeting rooms and programs is available for public use. The library offers a rich program of activities, in which reading and browsing bookstacks are only a part of the experience.

With its name that pays homage to the famed athlete and Long Beach native, the Billie Jean King Main Library establishes a welcoming presence from the street. Once inside, visitors pass through a dramatic two-story light well that leads into a large central atrium. Clerestory windows fill the interiors with natural light, creating a space that feels like an expansive pavilion. The atrium can accommodate a range of activities throughout the course of the day, from workshops and social gatherings to exhibits and public events.

Billie Jean King Main Library
Exterior of Billie Jean King Main Library. © Benny Chan | Fotoworks
Billie Jean King Main Library
© Benny Chan | Fotoworks
Billie Jean King Main Library
© Benny Chan | Fotoworks

Using timber to reduce carbon impact

Timber construction is a key component of a holistic approach to sustainable design. The building is one of the few in Southern California that utilizes a heavy timber structural system, composed of renewable timber reinforced with steel and concrete where needed. Each material is employed in a hybrid system to optimize its respective structural properties.

By using timber, a lightweight material, the library could be built atop the existing structure of an underground concrete parking garage. Saving most of the concrete structure allowed the design team to significantly cut down on material waste. The design reduces embodied carbon by 61 percent, compared with erecting a new parking garage and a conventional concrete building.

A range of sustainable design strategies have contributed to the library’s LEED Platinum certification. The building features rooftop photovoltaic cells, controlled air ventilation systems, and extensive glazing to maximize daylight, with architectural overhangs for solar protection. MEP and fire safety systems were left uncovered to feature the timber structure.

Billie Jean King Library
© Benny Chan | Fotoworks

An emblem for a renewed district

The 93,500-square-foot library is part of the Long Beach Civic Center Master Plan, along with a new City Hall and Port of Long Beach Headquarters. SOM designed the master plan to revitalize 22 acres of downtown Long Beach by creating a vibrant, mixed-use district and reactivating Lincoln Park.

Our goal was to leverage the power of clear ideas, natural materials, and Southern California sunlight to create a bright, beautiful, and beloved new place for the people of Long Beach.