Portola Valley Town Center
by Lauri Puchall
When Portola Valley, California sought an updated, seismically safer civic complex, the existing mid-20th-century wood-and-concrete-block campus was deconstructed and its parts repurposed, along with other salvaged components, to create a sustainable new facility on another portion of the site.
The resulting Portola Valley Town Center is targeted for LEED Platinum certification and was named one of the Top Ten Green Projects for 2009 by the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE).
The town council members — among them longtime resident Bill Lane, publisher of Sunset magazine — selected an experienced Bay Area architectural team to direct the project. Siegel & Strain Architects joined forces with Goring & Straja Architects to conceive three separate wood structures, clustering the low-lying library, community hall, and town hall around a village green.
The $20 million complex relates to a bucolic setting marked by redwood groves and gently sloping oak woodlands. A low earth berm at the edge of the playing field highlights the rise of an orchard beyond, while a small grove alongside the town hall shelters an outdoor picnic area.
The natural world inspired subtle building details like the ornamental branches decorating the building department counter (salvaged from the school) and delicate leaf imprints etched into the concrete paving at building entrances. While redwoods and oaks on site were preserved, four eucalyptus trees were removed and used to create the finished floor of the multipurpose room, while the trunks of felled alders were fashioned to encapsulate metal columns in the library.
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