The L.A. Central Library was almost torn down, but saved at the last minute to be completely restored and expanded as the showpiece of one of the greates municipal libraries of America. It served as the focal point and transition of Los Angeles from an ahistorical city to one whose relatively short but full history was finally acknowledged.
This multimedia building required limestone and ceramic tile restoration, for the limestone entry, the ceramic tile fountain, and the pyramid tile roof. We were able to replace the limestone entry stone with material from the same quarry as the original, and the 20 ton fountain was removed, restored, and reinstalled in its original location.
The historic Central Library was completely rehabilitated by addressing the multiple materials of its construction in a comprehensive fashion.
The first of two fires over the course of the project initiated the restoration drive, but many books and the structure itself were damaged or destroyed in the initial fire.
In the case of this limestone entry, the stone had to be replaced with new matching material, but it at least came from the same quarry and hole as the original material.
The Indiana limestone came from the Empire Hole, eponymously named as the source of material for the exterior cladding of the Empire State Building.
To accommodate the seismic and structural changes made to the building, many historic elements were removed wholesale, restored offsite, and later re-installed.
This shot shows the previously removed limestone bench after restoration and re-installation at the site in the same location. The ground beneath, however, has been removed and replaced with three levels of new parking and facilities access.
Several other entrances and door surrounds in limestone were removed and later re-installed at various locations on the project.
Over 250 limestone caps were carefully removed in the demo phase of the project and taken to the restoration facility offsite while structural work was performed on the building's shell and frame. These stone elements were all cleaned and restored prior to shipment back to the site fore re-installation, usually in the same location from which they were removed.
The restored limestone caps were installed using new stainless steel anchors and wire to minimize the chance of future failure with the anchoring system.
The restored limestone caps were also set on a sheet metal membrane over the supporting concrete walls to eliminate future problems with water intrusion.
Other artifacts removed whole and later re-installed included the four ceramic tile-clad planters in the courtyard.
Extensive repointing of the grout joints between limestone elements took place to further reduce the chance of moisture intrusion. Note the temporary tape on either side of the joint being repointed to keep the open-pored stone surface free of cement stains.
Major sculptural elements on the building facade were left in place and restored as necessary. These figures were in pretty good shape considering the acidic quality of rainfall in Los Angeles, and needed only minor patching and repairs.
Removal of failed grout at decorative carved lettering was carefully chipped out by hand to avoid unnecessary damage to stone edges.
At the pyramid tile roof, many of the original glazed terra cotta tiles had faded over the years, probably as a result of exposure to UV radiation.
Of the 30,000 glazed terra cotta tiles on the four surfaces, over 8,000 tiles were removed and replaced with new matching material in over 125 individual styles and types of tile. Special sculptural tools were used to prepare the substrate for installation of new material.
Documentation and selective demo were the key elements in ensuring the successful completion of this critical aspect of the restoration.
Tile setters worked with carefully prepared plans and documents to ensure that the proper tiles were set in the exact position required.
Replacement of the 'fugitive red' glazed tiles had a major effect in the visual impact of the pyramid portion of the building.
Meanwhile, the ceramic tile fountain removed as a large mass required special handling to position the fountain for selective removal of excess weight (concrete).
One of the more challenging aspects of this project was the problem of how to handle a 60-ton fountain and manipulate it in such a way that the new levels of parking below would not be crushed by its weight. Since the glazed tile on its surface was the historically significant element we were trying to protect, we used a diamond wire saw to cut off portions of the fountain to reduce the weight.
While the total weight reduction amounted to approximately 20 tons, it still took two large cranes operating simultaneously to install the restored fountain.
The completely restored fountain, with ceramic tile intact, and placed back in its original location.
The library continues to function as a cultural anchor of the downtown community, and a symbol of what can be accomplished when the forces of blind destruction are arrested.