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Steel Shots: A (Reading) Room with a View
Posted by Tasha Weiss on November 2, 2012 at 4:53 PM.


A steel-framed dome crowns the newly expanded San Diego Central Library and gives visitors something to look at besides books. The steel dome uses 285 tons of hollow structural sections (HSS) in all. The largest steel sail measures 123 ft high by 53 ft wide. Photos: Courtesy of Michael Moore


They always tell you to keep quiet in the library.


But the reading room of San Diego’s new downtown children’s library, called the San Diego Library Dome, might elicit a number of “oohs and ahs.”


That’slibrary-dome_sitn_2.jpg because it’s housed in a 140-ft-tall steel-and-glass dome, on top of a nine-story building, with magnificent views of downtown San Diego, the harbor and the Coronado Bridge.


The children’s library is part of an expansion project that will add 498,000 sq. ft of space to the city’s Central Library, effectively doubling the size of the current library. The new $185-million building will also feature a technology center, outdoor plaza and cafe, 350-seat auditorium, 400-seat multi-purpose room, teen center and two levels of underground parking. In addition, two floors of the library, totaling 76,000 sq. ft, will be used for a charter school serving up to 400 students. The building is also being designed and constructed to achieve LEED Silver certification.


The dome not only provides a beautiful reading environment but also a new architectural icon for the city. Comprised of steel sails with thousands of steel connection points to support the aluminum panel covering, which is perforated with thousands of light points, the dome’s design allows natural light to illuminate the space below.


The dome required 285 tons of hollow structural sections (HSS) in all, and the largest steel sail measures 123 ft high and 53 ft wide. Each sail is comprised of multiple curved members, which are 6 5/8 in. in diameter and 1/2 in. thick. The largest sail has 59 curved members, 5 trusses, 20 spreaders, 102 stainless steel bars, 204 rod ends, 40 cables, 40 swage turn buckles, 40 swage ends and 20 spreader packs. Curved members lace the cross sections to form the eight 13-ton steel sails, which were individually hoisted into place.


Roughly 60% of the sails were assembled in Utah prior to shipping, and the remaining sails were assembled on site. SME Steel Contractors, Inc., West Jordan, Utah (an AISC member/AISC Certified Fabricator) was the steel fabricator and erector for the project. The dome topped out on July 3 and was completed on August 31. The new library is scheduled to open this coming summer.


You can read more about the San Diego Library Dome in the November 2012 issue of MSC (available now!). Click here for a PDF of the article.

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