Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECTS:
When it opened in 1966, the Renton Public Library was an engineering feat. With pre-cast concrete and wood truss joists creating a stunning 80-foot central span across Washington State’s Cedar River and active salmon habitat, the library is beloved by generations of families and community members. Preservation of this community treasure was a clear priority for the project, but, by 2015, the library’s envelope was deteriorating and not in line with current energy codes. The structural system and chief design element did not measure up to current seismic standards, nor could it handle potential soil liquefaction.
The team’s overarching goal for this renovation was to celebrate the bridge structure and incorporate a nod to Renton’s manufacturing and engineering legacy, which includes companies such as PACCAR and Boeing. The renovation maintained the original structure, but added a finely crafted and efficient exterior that provides floor to ceiling views of the river below while new cross bracing and aluminum siding reflect the city’s industrial heritage. The original structure could not be constructed today due to the delicate ecosystem below it, so all construction activity took place beyond an area defined by the ordinary high water mark. The team implemented creative solutions to buttress the existing structure and soils using landward pilings, which upgraded the building seismically and avoided any habitat disruption and a morass of permitting oversight.
The library’s floor plan celebrates the central span and highlights views of the river. The full height glazing and open floor plan connect the library to the river below and provides an airy atmosphere for the highly active programming elements, such as the collection stacks, children’s areas, reading rooms, and computer areas. Digital information was given a touch of industrial inspiration through power and data drops from the ceiling that combine aircraft cable and steel connections that visually anchor computer stations and study tables.
The team also relocated the main entry so that it is now clearly visible and accessible from the parking lot. The existing pedestrian bridge, which connects the parking lot and a nearby city park also was made more accessible, received lighting upgrades, and now boats a traction coating for safer crossing during wet or wintry weather.
The renovation revitalized a prized library on its existing footprint, and its enclosure is designed to ensure its longevity. The project’s additional sustainable features include photosensor-equipped interior lighting located near the glazing and occupancy sensors that monitor the library’s smaller rooms. Overall, the building exceeds code-level performance by five percent and light levels near the river are directed away to alleviate any impact on the salmon habitat.