In 1966, it was possible to build a building in the middle of a park, right over the Cedar River. This remarkable bridge-like structure, although cherished by generations of residents, was cloaked in a “period” envelope with small windows barely providing views to one of western Washington’s premier salmon-bearing rivers. The low ceilings, out of date technology, and a warren of small rooms no longer supported current library functions. The practice was challenged with making a true community asset out of a structure that could not be built today.
The design of the new Renton Library capitalized on the great assets of the existing building – an incredible site and valuable structure–and stripped away all that was holding the library back. Ceilings and walls were removed to create a single, high, flexible space. Renton’s long history of manufacturing and engineering, as home of both Boeing and PACCAR, were embraced by exposing the industrial structure and adding raw aluminum and “safety” orange and yellow color accents. Floor-to-ceiling energy-efficient glass was added throughout, creating a beacon of activity and inviting the community in while framing unparalleled views to the river and landscape.
The team’s embrace of this unique building/ landscape relationship has created a one-of-a-kind visitor experience and one of the most tranquil spots to sit and read a book or catch up with neighbors. Reflecting the history and spirit of the community in which it sits, Renton Library represents their design approach of regionalism grounded in a specific place.
Photo credits: Lara Swimmer