Ortega Branch Library
- 3223 Ortega Street, San Francisco, California
- Current Name:
- Ortega Branch Library
- Current Use:
- Current Condition:
The architects took great care to fit the Ortega Library into the modern architecture of the Sunset Community Center. The buildings were set back from Ortega Street and provided two parking lots in front of the schools. A driveway west of Giannini School allowed access to the playing fields and Ortega Library, which sat on an elevated platform and was also set back from the street. With a school completed in 1954, Wolfard used the same architectural vocabulary of horizontal emphasis of the roof lines and white-washed walls with large floor-to-ceiling windows for the Ortega Library. The roof was flat and had two levels and no overhangs. On the south side, the lower part of the building and pergolas softened the strong cubic volume. The Ortega Library has its merits as an example of a building influenced by the International Style. The Ortega Library also had several of the interior features such as a fire place and a glass case for book exhibits next to the entrance door. Unfortunately, they were removed, maybe after the 1972 fire and vandalism.
Sunset Community Center, San Francisco, Forty-Three Acres Cooperatively Planned, Architectural Record, March 1952, p. 121-131.
Giannini Junior High School is Dedicated, San Francisco Chronicle, 1-27-1955, p.12.
Treib, Marc, An Everyday Modernism:The Houses of William Wurster, 1995, p.190 and 192.
Brandi, Richard, San Francisco’s Modern Branch Libraries Face Rehabilitation, Heritage News, Vol. XXXI, No.4, P.5-7.
Carey & Company, North Beach Branch Library, San Francisco, California, Draft Historic Resources Technical Report, April 30, 2009, p.13-20.
Images courtesy of Bob Pullum.
Although the plan for the Sunset Community Center with schools, a swimming pool, recreation center, health center, and playing fields, was not completely executed as envisioned, and the original Ortega Branch Library has since been replaced, the community plan is still recognizable today.
Lighting is of great importance for reading books and the architect, Harold Wolfard, carefully designed and orchestrated the light sources and combined natural and artificial light from the ceiling in a masterful way. The main natural light source was the north-facing large window which was set back in the facade with a deep recess to avoid direct sunlight and glare. On the west side, where the sun is generally low and glaring and also causes heat build-up, direct light penetration was avoided by designing the west wall with a deep recess with vertical windows which indirectly light the interior. These light sources provided a wonderful space for pleasant reading.