San Diego Central Library

America’s second largest dome is nearing completion

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Late on the night of April 27, 1993, when I arrived in San Diego, Mission Bay Park is where I headed. It’s where I spent my first night, sleeping on the beach.

When I got up the next morning, I went to the KOA Kampground in Chula Vista to shower. After that I headed to the San Diego Public Library, intent on making a copy of an area map. Fifty cents for copies of ten pages would be much cheaper than $1.95 at a bookstore.

This is what San Diego’s main library looked like then and, as of yesterday, still looks like:

San Diego City Library

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It’s a non-descript building in a non-descript area of town. San Diego has been trying for a couple of decades to build a new central library. Building a new library even made the ballot a few years ago. The citizens voted on it. The citizens voted no. Mainly because the city’s annual budget was about $65 million in the red and the city’s pension fund was underfunded by about $2 billion.

Enter city government.

About a year after the citizens voted no, the city council voted yes. Construction began. Everyone wondered where the money was coming from. The citizens still wonder. It’s never been explained.

Here is an artist’s rendering of what the city wanted to build:

San Diego Central Library

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Are we there yet? No, but we’re getting close. The new central library is scheduled to open next summer. Here are some pictures of where construction stands as of yesterday:

San Diego Central Library

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Central Library

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Central Library

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Location of new San Diego Central Library

View Larger Map

The big dome is going to stand among the largest in the world:

  • Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans — 679 feet
  • St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy — 194 feet
  • Duomo in Florence, Italy — 149 feet
  • San Diego Central Library — 143 feet
  • Pantheon in Rome, Italy — 142 feet
  • Mt. Palomar Observatory in San Diego County — 136 feet
  • United States Capitol in Washington D.C. — 135 feet
  • Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey — 103 feet
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England — 101 feet

The library will have nine or ten floors (sources disagree), almost 300,000 square feet, 1.3 million volumes, and 400 computer terminals. Current projected completion cost is almost $185 million; original construction estimates were $135 million. Keep in mind that the citizens voted no because the construction estimate was too high.

If you build it….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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22 thoughts on “America’s second largest dome is nearing completion

  1. SmallHouseBigGarden

    That’s some very impressive architecture, but I’m more impressed by the young man who left the midwest in the early 90s to build a life out west.
    I’m sure you’ve dropped pieces of your story throughout various pages here, but is there one in particular that details the actual leave-taking and ride west?

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I’m not sure you want to know the details, but since I have published them on previous blogs on other sites, no reason why I should do so here. Look for details in an upcoming post.

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  2. notsofancynancy

    Wow! We got our first library in my little town a couple of years ago. Where we proud? It is part manufactured home like with stucco on it. The thing I like best is that it is dedicated to Veterans. We have limited hours and limited books.

    ps Can’t wait for your story of moving west. lol

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  3. Pit

    Hi Russel,
    Not that I think overrunning the budget is a good thing, but, compared to the city of Hamburg with their new “Elbphilharmonie” you’re getting off cheap. Their first estimate was 77 million Euro, and now it’s 400. But they aren’t finished yet, so we can certainly expect an even bigger overrun.
    Take care, and have a good one,
    Pit
    P.S.: Why is it, I keep asking myself, that something built with the taxpayers’ money always overruns the original estimate?

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  4. patinaandcompany

    Wow, that is going to be spectacular. Toronto recently cut back library funding, so I guess I sort of prefer the endorsement of the value of literature and culture which your city’s approach implies. I’m all for judicious spending, believe me; but this is a value judgement I am all in favour of. Lucky San Diego.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I’m not sure San Diego has a literary/cultural approach. The first thing that was cut here during the Great Recession were library hours, and they have not returned to full-time yet. The main library and the library branches are open about 20 hours a week, and weird hours at that — noon to 3:30, 9:30 to 12:30, 2:30 to 5:30……….. It’s a mess for anyone actually needing to use the libraries.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      First, I save articles from the U-T San Diego, the San Diego Reader, and San Diego magazine. After that I use Google. As my wise old grandmother always told me, “Google is your friend.”

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  5. Todd Materazzi Photography

    Of all the libraries I ever seen (other than the Library of Congress), this is probably one of the best photographic ones that exist!

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  6. Maxi

    It’s the same ol’, same ol’, Russel. Those who pay the taxes that get things done, don’t count. The big shots (in their minds) live in another world, where they feel nothing counts but their opinion.

    The library may be stunning, but betta there will be a tax increase somewhere.

    Blessings – Maxi

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  7. Pingback: Grand opening for the new Lemon Grove library | Russel Ray Photos

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