Structure Type: built works - social and civic buildings - libraries

Designers: Graves, Michael, Architect (firm); Michael Edward Graves (architect)

Dates: constructed 1981-1983

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31495 El Camino Real
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

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When it was completed in 12/1983, this library had begun to attract international attention, and was one of the more publicized buildings in Southern California in the early 1980s. The Post Modern library had an eclectic appearance, influenced by Spanish Colonial Revival, Mayan and Egyptian architectural precedents, as well as contemporary Modern design and the work of the early 20th century, San Diego architect Irving J. Gill.

Building History

According to architectural theorist and historian Charles Jencks, Graves looked at several historical sources when synthesizing his design for the San Juan Capistrano Public Library. Jencks wrote in 1987: "Particularly successful is the San Juan Capistrano Public Library, a modest building in size and cost ($1.5 million), which alludes to the surrounding Mission Style without apeing its manner. For this building Graves looked at Mexican and Guatemalan wall architecture, sketching its strangely proportioned ziggurats and sun temples, until he understood this language was related to the Spanish Mission Style." (See Charles Jencks, Post Modernism The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, [New York: Rizzoli, 1987], p. 310.)

Arranged around a courtyard, a typical Spanish/Mexican plan type, the building also carried with it traces of ancient Egyptian and Italian Rationalist architecture, particularly in its serial usage of stark, square piers. Additionally, the flattened two-dimensional patterning of Robert Venturi is evident, clearly influencing some fenestration details, for example. One other influence of Latin American architecture Jencks pointed out was the "light monitor," utilized to highlight various interior portions of the library. (See Charles Jencks, Kings of Infinite Space, [London: Academy Editions, 1983], p. 82)

Building Notes

Local ordinance demanded that the style of the library be Spanish Colonial Revival in style. The Mission San Juan Capistrano was located across the street.

PCAD id: 15384

"San Juan Capistrano Regional Library: San Juan Capistrano, California", A + U: Architecture and Urbanism, 164, 78-85, 1984-05. Watanabe, Hiroshi, "Seeing Architecture: San Juan Capistrano Regional Library", A + U: Architecture and Urbanism, 164, 120-122, 1984-05. Pastier, John, "An intimate sequence of spaces: Michael Graves's San Juan Capistrano Library", AIA Journal, 78: 12, 64-67, 1989-12. Pastier, John, "Mission imagery, introverted spaces: San Juan Capistrano library. San Juan Capistrano, California", AIA Journal, 73: 5, 258-267, 1984-05. "San Juan Capistrano Public Library, 1981, and Sunar showroom, Los Angeles, 1980; architect: Michael Graves", Architectural Design, 52: 1-2, 98-101, 1982. " San Juan Capistrano Public Library Design Competition", Architectural Record, 169: 4, 46-49, 1981-03. Pastier, John, "Missionary Graves: Library, San Juan Capistrano", Architectural Review, 176: 1052, 52-57, 1984-10. "1985 AIA Honor Awards", Architecture California, 7: 5, 14-16, 1985-09/10. "Bibliotek i San Juan Capistrano, Californien", Arkitektur DK, 28: 5, A57-A58, 1984-09. "AIA Honor Awards include Graves' library ", Buildings Design Journal, 3: 6, 15-17, Lavin, Sylvia, "La biblioteca pubblica di San Juan Capistrano: Fitting the style", Domus, 650, 8-13, 1984-05. "Michael Graves: Public library, San Juan Capistrano, California, design: 1980; completion: 1983", GA Document, 10, 24-41. Filler, Martin, "Romance comes back to Capistrano. Michael Graves's new library in California mission tradition", House and Garden, 156: 3, 148-153, 1984-03. Jencks, Charles, Kings of Infinite Space, 81-83, 1983. Wheatley, Charles H., "The San Juan Capistrano Library", L.A. Architect, 3, 1984-03. Jencks, Charles, Post-Modernism The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, 308-310, 1987. Viladas, Pilar, "Ex Libris: Regional Library, San Juan Capistrano, Calif", Progressive Architecture, 65: 6, 69-79, 1984-06. "Library adjoins 200-year old Spanish colonial mission: San Juan Capistrano Library, San Juan Capistrano, ca., 1980", Urban Design International, 5: 2, 30-31, 1985 Winter.