Federal Way Library in Federal Way, Washington by Mithun, 2010
Federal Way is a city in King County, Washington between Tacoma and Seattle, bordering the Puget Sound. It is basically suburban in layout, but symptomatically of the region it is blessed with an abundance of trees. This latter condition is particularly evident where 1st Way South bends around Panther Lake Elementary School and Federal Way Library; the first is a colorful design recently completed by DLR Group, and the second is an unremarkable 25,000 sf (2,325 sm) postmodern design from 1991 (architect unknown) recently added to and renovated by Seattle-based Mithun.
The library's 1991 building is set at a 45-degree angle to the vehicular entry's intersection with the street, a siting that pushed parking to the south of the building. Also the relationship of the old building to the intersection appears that it was geared towards giving the building a civic presence rather than relating to its natural surroundings. The 9,500 sf (880 sm) addition remedies this deficiency by wrapping the old building on the north and east sides, using full-height glazing to visually open the new spaces to the evergreen trees outside.
A guiding concept of the library’s addition [is] a 'Lantern in the Forest." -MithunThe addition is basically comprised of three "lanterns." Each faces a different direction through a sloping glazed wall framed with zinc siding. This clamshell plan aims to preserve as many trees on the site as possible, but it also opens up a larger vista and lets in varied filtered sunlight from different directions throughout the day. Where each lantern meets the landscape "rain gardens" border the exterior wall to provide natural infiltration and create an intermediate strip of plantings between the glass walls and the trees. The view appears to be the perfect distraction while being at the library.
Mithun is responsible for the renovation of the existing library as well as the addition. Openness and natural light permeate the whole building, achieved with new skylights and glass walls. The extra space adds room for approximately 20,000 volumes, bringing the library's total to 200,000, one of the largest in the Kings County Library System. The $8.1 million expansion and renovation is part of a $172 million undertaking to renovate or expand 44 libraries in the system.