Expanding Under Constraints: An Urban Infill Project in the Mission Hills-Hillcrest Neighborhood

Updated: Sep 16, 2019


The courtyard and greenwall for reading outside.

The space that the team had to work with was constrained, as is the case with many urban infill projects.

For the Mission Hills-Hillcrest Knox Library Van Dyke Landscape Architects (VDLA) initially began working off of bridging documents for the project. In conjunction with Manuel Oncina Architects, FPBA and C.W. Driver, VDLA further developed the concept to fit the existing space which had previously been a union workers building that was demolished. The space that the team had to work with was constrained, as is the case with many urban infill projects. VDLA’S Project Manager Denise Armijo acknowledges that this was a very special project for her to work on. She used to live in Mission Hills so it meant a lot for her to be on a team that was providing a new, expanded neighborhood library to the local community.


Additionally, plants needed to be appropriate for different sun exposures for each area of the site.

Some of the project’s challenging aspects for the landscaping included utility constraints as well as working on top of an underground garage. Additionally, plants needed to be appropriate for different sun exposures for each area of the site and for close interaction with pedestrians and patrons. These aspects drove the design for not only what was feasible and practical but also for what would be effective aesthetically. To coordinate these design challenges, close coordination with the team members and relevant City departments was key.


The front entry hardscape and potted plants welcome patrons.
An above-grade filtration unit which simultaneously presents a learning opportunity to library visitors.

From an aesthetic perspective, working with Manuel Oncina from MOA to match the Craftsman style of the architecture and coordinating the plant palette with the architectural colors was very satisfying. VDLA also worked with local civil engineers, Snipes-Dye Associates to develop bio-filtration that would appear attractive while meeting LEED requirements. In addition to a basin area, there is also an above-grade filtration unit which simultaneously presents a learning opportunity to library visitors.


We are happy to report that the APWA awarded the project with an Award of Honor in the Structures category, 2019. The library is nearly four times larger than the previous one.