Design Between the Cracks

College Preparatory School Library

School libraries in the 21st century just don’t work the same way as they used to. Books are being replaced by couches, and quiet has been replaced – at least in part – with students working and talking together. For this independent high school located in Oakland, California, we were asked to strike a balance between the two, while providing students new ways to use their library, all within a limited budget. Because, after all, budgets matter in an era where schools have to juggle so many competing needs for their resources. We call this design between the cracks, where we can use our creativity to show how an interior space can be transformed without the cost of building a new building.

Literally nothing is nailed down in this design, where furniture has been designed to move as needs evolve. After all, that’s the reality of libraries in our world today, where knowledge is no longer just contained between the pages of a book.   We created a classroom with fold-up and stackable furniture that can easily become an open space virtual reality lab in a few minutes. Quiet study areas remain – as do books – but the mix has been altered to reflect the changing times. In order to more strongly “connect” the spaces contained within four existing modular buildings, we used soft curving patterns to emulate the forms so strongly present in the surrounding school campus. As with all our projects, color plays an important part, designed to “bring the outside in” by reflecting the unique nature of a school nestled in the hills.

This is truly a library of the now… and the future we don’t yet know.


  • Client: College Preparatory School
  • Size: 3500 square feet
  • Location: Oakland, California
  • Estimated Completion: 2017