May 24, 2022
A paseo and coordinated lighting plan combine to both separate and unify two public buildings in Southern California

By Paul Tarricone

Photo: Robert Hansen

There are no stars and co-stars on Lakeview Avenue in Yorba Linda, CA. Instead, two neighboring government buildings receive equal billing on this city street. First, we have the Yorba Linda Public Library—at approximately 46,000 sq ft, the two-story building is nearly double the previous facility’s size. Then there’s the Cultural Arts Center, a single-story structure spanning approximately 15,000 sq ft. Completed in December 2020 at a cost of $42 million, the campus boasts indoor and outdoor spaces for gatherings, programs and festivals, and includes more than 200 parking spaces.

While the buildings share a 4.4-acre site—but not the same address—the design concept by Group 4 Architecture Research + Planning “was built upon the idea that each building should have its own identity, yet relate to each other by the way they engage the public through a ‘paseo’ that runs between them,” says David Orgish, of lighting designer O’Mahony & Myer (OMM), San Rafael, CA. “The paseo is intended to be a bridge of shared space between the two city departments.”

Indeed, the campus’s “curb appeal” is readily apparent. The site orientation is a departure from the approach used elsewhere on Lakeview Avenue. “In contrast to the retail development across the street—where the back of the retail buildings close off the design of the site to passersby—the library and arts center site welcomes the public by the two buildings ‘opening up’ to the street through their diverging angular relationship and by engaging the street with a ceremonial staircase that brings patrons up to the level of the paseo,” Orgish explains. 

From there, pedestrian-scale, pole-mounted site lighting luminaires (Bega US) bookend the paseo and set the stage for a series of catenary-hung, full-cutoff LED lanterns (HessAmerica) that illuminate a meandering walkway between the two buildings. The catenary downlights create horizontal luminance on the walking surface and sparkle through their clear lenses, defining the axis of travel through the site. The goal, notes Orgish, “was to make an outdoor space that feels as if it is an interior space. To create this illusion, OMM established a hierarchy of luminance levels down the length of the paseo. Tree uplighting, wall surface grazing from the ground and downlighting of the stone façade from the building eaves creates a sense of enclosure through their higher luminance levels and sense of scale.

The architect also used “lanterns” throughout the site. But in this application, the lanterns aren’t fixtures, but architectural expressions that “break down” the perceived lengths of the buildings. The lanterns extend up and/or out from the buildings, creating large articulated boxes that relate to each other across the paseo through their similar lighting language. The central lanterns at the main entries to both structures are illuminated from within by asymmetric uplighting and long cylindrical decorative pendant luminaires (Lumetta) that accentuate their height. The lanterns at the end of each building are lit by drum-shaped decorative pendant luminaires which punctuate and anchor the buildings on the site. The city was also concerned about the public knowing when the facility was open or closed, so an additional function of the “lanterns,” reinforced by the glowing decorative pendants, was to help signal that to the public.

While the street-facing entrances create the most dramatic architectural effect, the back of the site is also put to good use. The parking area, again in contrast to many other sites in Southern California, is intentionally in the back of the site, and thus allows additional community engagement through hosting weekend farmer’s markets and craft fairs where patrons can gather away from the hustle and bustle of the street. This also establishes another point of entry into the “canyon” that is created between the two buildings. This end of the paseo has additional illumination features—including string lighting, under-bench lighting, and dynamic, DMX controlled, RGB uplighting at a mist fountain—creating a sense of playfulness and acting as a larger gathering place and backdrop for the outdoor amphitheater adjacent to a dance studio, which opens to the public for performances.

Once inside, the design approaches for the library and arts center diverge, with the interior lighting is tailored to each respective building.

The library combines functional lighting with splashes of decorative luminaires (most notably from LZF Lighting) to engage its various user groups. Book collection areas are illuminated with direct/indirect linear pendant luminaires oriented perpendicular to the stack aisles. Group study rooms are similarly illuminated with direct/indirect linear pendants. The Children’s area is illuminated with several luminaire types in random patterns, creating a sense of whimsy and playfulness; other spaces feature more understated layouts, such as subdued break-out spaces for focused reading. The Children’s Storytime area is illuminated like a theatrical space with downlights concealed between angled acoustic ceiling panels, while the Teen area is illuminated by decorative pendant-mounted luminaires over banquette seating areas with linear recessed downlights integrated into the wood slat ceilings. The conference room is illuminated like a corporate board room with decorative pendants over the conference table and recessed wallwashers ringing the space.

The double-height area of the library with the Grand Stair is illuminated with linear recessed downlights and adjustable multiheaded linear recessed downlights that are focused on the library furniture and display shelves on the first floor. “One particularly challenging aspect of the second-floor lighting system was that we wanted to use similar luminaires to illuminate both the single and doubleheight spaces, as the wood slat ceiling flowed over both areas,” says Orgish. “We solved this challenge by using recessed linear downlights with an opal white diffuser over the single-height areas and similar luminaires with discrete cutoff optics and tight beam spreads at the double height areas.” With its black-box theater and dance studio, the cultural arts center’s lighting plan is more understated. Separate, yet engaging and connected. The mantra for this project.


David Orgish, LEED AP, Member IES, is principal of the Lighting Design Studio at O’Mahony & Myer and an educator with his local electric utility. With over 30 years of experience in the field, Orgish has designed the lighting for a multitude of diverse projects.


Paul Tarricone

Paul Tarricone

Paul Tarricone has more 25 years of experience in association and business-to-business publishing, specializing in the engineering, design, construction and facilities management markets. Mr. Tarricone currently serves as Editor and Publisher of Lighting Design + Application,... More info »