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El Centro Library

The City of El Centro acquired an aging complex called the Valley Center Point Shopping Center and partnered with FPBA to revitalize and design a new library within it.

FPBA evaluated different scenarios—renovation of the existing building vs. demolition/construction of a new ground-up facility—and presented a final recommendation to the City Council, along with a vision for the library, in order to secure funding for the project. The poor condition, health hazards, shorter life span and lower flexibility of the existing building led FPBA to recommend the ground-up option, which was unanimously approved by the council.

The new library’s architecture is inspired by the natural landscapes of the Painted Gorge and manmade landscapes of regional agriculture.

El Centro was once underwater in pre-historic Lake Cahuilla. The design commemorates this history with an archeological theme in the children’s area, incorporating ancient underwater fossils that can be found in places like Fossil Canyon today. These features reinforce a connection to the surrounding community while also creating learning opportunities for children.

Other aspects of the library are also inspired by the region’s topography. Perforated shade canopies resemble the patchwork pattern of agriculture fields, while a functional retention basin resembles a natural arroyo, supplemented by landscaping and boulders.


El Centro, CA

Square Footage

140,000 SF

Team Members

Amanda Schultz
Ann Shelton
Michael Wilson
Derek McFarland
Masa Aoe
Kate Novikova


2023 Project of the Year, Structures, $6-25M – APWA San Diego & Imperial Counties Chapter