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Standing the Test of Time – The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose, California


This definitely isn’t your typical library entrance in how it appears on the outside or how it came to life. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose, California is a unique partnership between San José State University and the City of San José. Envisioned initially by San José Mayor Susan Hammer and San José State University President Robert L. Caret, the King Library serves as both San José State’s University Library and the City at large.



Since opening in 2003, with eight floors and over 475,000 square feet, the MLK Library has proven to be a success in service, operations, and collections. This downtown location at the corner of campus weaves interconnectivity between the school and community. Features in the building include computer lab areas, internet access, group study rooms, quiet study areas, and a silent floor. The eight-story atrium sets an ambiance of enlightenment as well as providing warm, natural light. It serves as a glassy, iconic destination for downtown San José residents and a functional study and learning area for college students.

This structure was designed to serve many different audiences and be sustainable for heavy use. It houses 1.5 million volumes of books available for use by more than 2 million visitors each year. It can seat over 3,500 patrons and offers 300 public access computers and 40 group study rooms.



The owners were looking for an efficient solution, but also wanted to take advantage of the abundance of natural light from the sunny California days with a unique design. They hired the late, world-renowned architect Gunnar Birkerts to devise a creative expression. His design called for a transparent glass entrance, that plays with the eye, unconventionally flipping the supporting tempered glass fins to the outside of the face glass instead of to the inside. A system like this required advanced expertise in glass engineering and installation for this type of structural glass wall. The design team decided to utilize a highly tested, Pilkington Planar™ system supplied by W&W Glass, LLC for the application. Working with installers from Permasteelisa, the W&W Glass professionals provided clear, monolithic silk-screened white 40% dot pattern glass for the main facade. The face glass was supported by standard Pilkington 905 series fittings onto clear tempered glass fins. Not only is the look impressive from the street, but it also takes full advantage of the abundance of natural light streaming in giving the entry lobby a large, airy feeling while keeping occupants shaded from a majority of the glare from the sun. The project still continues to stand the test of time as the welcoming face of the library for future generations of students and residents alike to engage and collaborate for years to come.

W&W Glass LLC is a family owned business with a 70-year history in the metal and glass industry, one of the largest metal and glass companies in the New York metropolitan area and the largest supplier of structural glass systems in the country. We have over two decades of experience in the design and installation of various building enclosure systems, including stick-built curtain walls, pre-glazed unitized curtain walls, Pilkington Planar structural glass facades, and custom metal and glass enclosure systems. We install all of our work with our own dedicated union labor force. W&W is consistently the largest employer of glaziers in the NY metropolitan area.

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