Seventy miles north of Seattle in the historic town of La Conner, Wash., a new public library has been built utilizing cross laminated timber (CLT). The project, designed by Seattle-based architecture firm BuildingWork, was conceived with the history and culture of the local Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in mind.
The partnership between the library and the tribe resulted in a people-driven project that is “a rare example of a publicly funded building that utilizes CLT for the entire building structure,” according to Matt Aalfs, AIA, Principal Architect and BuildingWork founder.
Designing with Cross Laminated Timber (CLT)
The La Conner Swinomish Library interior features fully exposed CLT walls that benefit with daylighting techniques. Other sustainable design strategies used include rooftop solar, a highly efficient building envelope and HVAC system, and the use of non-toxic materials and finishes. Aided by the carbon-sequestering benefit of cross laminated timber, the building is also LEED Silver certified.
However, what really drove the design team were strict historic guidelines and a tight 10,500-sf lot to work with. The area sat in La Conner’s historic district among several non-contemporary buildings: typically compact and small-scale, with aesthetics of the mid-to-late 19th century. For the library, BuildingWork architects aimed to represent the patterns found in these buildings.
Partnership with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community
Other design elements came directly from the Swinomish tribe. Standing at the library’s entrance is a custom-made, hand-carved traditional story pole. Crafted by Swinomish elder and master carver Kevin Paul and his son-in-law Camas Logue, the 18-foot cedar pole includes carved iconography from Coast Salish culture—selected by Paul for the La Conner Swinomish Library.
“This story pole has three traditional figures: at the base is a Salish person wearing a cedar bark hat with hands outstretched in welcoming; in the middle are two circling salmon which represent sharing of resources; and at the top is an eagle which represents guidance and wisdom,” said Paul. “So the story pole shows that the library is a place for people to come together, to find guidance and knowledge, and everyone is welcome.”
BuildingWork architects worked directly with Paul to incorporate the piece. This involved modifying and reshaping parts of the building, and matching parts of the library’s facade colors with ones found on the pole.
With the remaining parts of the cedar log that the story pole was carved from, BuildingWork designed the library’s circulation desk and had display shelves and a custom bench made.
“When there are common interests and goals, native and non-native communities can find ways to work together and build relationships that help each other grow,” said Swinomish Tribe Senator Brian Wilbur. “That is what Swinomish and La Conner did with the construction of this library and our communities have grown closer because of it.”
On The Building Team:
Owner: La Conner Regional Library
Client Partner: Swinomish Indian Tribal Community
Architect, Interior Design: BuildingWork
Civil and Structural Engineer: KPFF
Mechanical Engineer: The Greenbusch Group, Inc.
Electrical Engineer: TFWB Engineers
Lighting Designer: Blanca Lighting Design
Envelope Consultant: RDH Building Science
Landscape Architect: Karen Kiest Landscape Architecture
LEED Consultant: ArchEcology
Specifications: Applied Building Information
Cost Estimator: Project Delivery Analysts
General Contractor: Tiger Construction