In a California mountain town where tall pines, sweet smelling cedars and legendary rocks stand majestically, a community library in an undesirable strip mall building was in desperate need of an upgrade. The story of Idyllwild Library began in 1920 when it was housed inside an old neighborhood inn. Since then, it has outlived several moves, a fire in 1945, a flood in 1978, and numerous remodels and expansions—before relocating to Strawberry Creek Square next to the neighborhood post office. This is where HMC’s challenge began.

The building was in need of an architectural intervention before it could come to life, so with funding from federal community grants, HMC worked with the Riverside County Economic Development Agency to re-design the former variety store building. The roof was opened up and raised about 15 feet—allowing sunlight to flood the space and make it feel twice its size. The addition of steel support columns and exposed laminated white cedar beams took the space from a dark, boring and beige block building to a rustic, modern piece of architecture with wonderfully day-lit reading rooms. An infusion of contextual materials and colors liven up the inside and outside of the building. In addition to teen and children’s spaces, there is a community room, adult reading rooms (including a cozy fireplace), and a patio. The local Friends of the Library also got a space to sell books to support the library’s future needs. Once overcrowded and unappealing, with a steady decline in users, Idyllwild Library is now three-times its last size and thriving like the magnificent trees around it.