Traverwood Branch Library

The new Traverwood Branch Library in Ann Arbor, Mich., uses wood from nearby ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer in a very local lesson about sustainability.

The massing of the Traverwood Branch Library consists of articulated volumes that form an L-shape on the site. Thin forms allow daylight to penetrate deep into the building and small, vertical windows on the southernmost facade admit light while protecting the building from glare and heat gain.

Visitors enter the building via a glass-clad lobby on the building's northeast corner. The ash planks harvested from the emerald ash borer-infected trees can be seen on the underside of the soffit over the main door, a prelude to the wood's use throughout the interior. Recessed strip lighting in a staggered pattern calls to mind the pattern of windows on the southern facade and elsewhere in the building.

Wood is the predominant finish in the lobby, making up the floor, walls, under-soffit ceiling, and most of the furniture. In addition to telling a local story and adding to the sustainability agenda, the material is durable and can withstand the high foot traffic, and the variegated color of the planks on the walls will hide the inevitable wear and tear on the building.

Some of the ash trees were stripped of their outer bark, left whole, and used as columns along the curtain wall facing the nature preserve. Operable windows within this wall are controlled by low-voltage actuators to promote natural airflow into the building, and automatic shades (hidden behind ash planks) close to limit heat gain and glare in the reading room during the brightest parts of the day.

The warmth of the ash planks plays against exposed aluminum and glass fenestration. Careful detailing allows the planks in the ceiling to neatly navigate curves and corners, as seen here in the transition space between the stacks and the casual study area.

Technology is omnipresent in the library. Visitors can search for titles at computer terminals at the information desk, and video screens mounted near the entrance display library events and information. Touchdown space for those using their personal computers for work or research is provided in the form of wood tables with inset power management.

In addition to the natural wood columns, a bent-wood screen creates a sculptural point of interest, and serves the practical purpose of setting the reading room off from the stacks. Indirect light fixtures throughout create a diffused glow that provides enough light without straining the eyes of those reading, but during the day, natural light is the primary illumination in the space.

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