CDI Early Learning Center | Los Angeles Conservancy
Los Angeles Public Library, Canoga Park Branch (former)
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

CDI Early Learning Center

Since 1959, the Canoga Park Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library has been a destination for readers and zigzag roof-lovers alike. Today it is a library no longer, but it continues to serve the community with its distinctive Mid-Century Modern lines proudly intact.

The building was designed by architects Ralph Bowerman and Charles Hobson and was completed in 1959 using library bond funds.

The construction was part of a general campaign to provide new libraries for the rapidly growing postwar population of the San Fernando Valley; the same campaign paid for a library in Woodland Hills, also designed by Bowerman and Hobson in a very similar style, with dramatic curved eaves and a parabolic roof.

The Woodland Hills Library was demolished in 2001. The former Canoga Park branch remains to remind us of the ambitious, Mid-Century Modern designs Bowerman and Hobson created for the Los Angeles library system.

The building has a two-part roof, with a folded-plate main roof topped by a complex butterfly roof component.

Both parts are made of thin-shell concrete, a very new construction method at the time, and feature large clerestory windows to let in natural light. The roof rests on simple, unornamented brick walls that open in the front for a recessed glass main entrance sheltered by the roof's zigzag eaves.

The Canoga Park Library was the first Mid-Century Modern-style library to be named a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

In 2004, the Canoga Park Library relocated, leaving its former home vacant. The facility languished, suffering from deterioration and vandalism.

In 2007, the Child Development Institute (CDI) worked with the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) to adaptively reuse the facility for its new Early Learning Center. Now bursting with activity, the landmark serves more than 1,000 young children and families each month. People come to explore, play, and learn through discovery zones, reading circles, puppet shows, and more.

The center also provides free developmental screening and referrals to resources for healthcare, education, and other services. Local residents who used the library as children now visit the new facility with families of their own.

The building's restoration and adaptive reuse project earned a Conservancy Preservation Award in 2014. This project embodies and furthers the spirit of the original Canoga Park Library, providing an inspirational environment for the local residents to connect and learn as a community.

Photo by Nevin on Flickr

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