Ann Arbor’s newest library is a study in developing a sustainably designed public space that is sensitive to the land’s needs. Designed by inFORM Studio, the project features an interior that is wrapped and supported by diseased ash tree lumber harvested from the 4.3 acre site. The Traverwood Branch Library subtly wraps around the perimeter of the site to maximize the green space, while the refreshingly contemporary shape and facade provides plenty of space and daylight to explore the library's collection.
The gently sourced ash trees on the site were damaged by the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species that has killed million of ash trees and threatens all of North America’s ash population. The library procured a grant to harvest and mill the on-site trees for the new building and it has incorporated the wood throughout the design. The trees were hand cut and removed by horse teams to minimize impact on the site.
The building is composed of two sections that form an L shape — each wing hugs a side of the triangular lot. Southern and western walls of windows link the land with the interior while providing light and heat, although western windows have a tendency of overheating a building on a summer day. Round ash support posts line the glass, evoking the connection of the building to the land. Book shelves, floors, and walls built from the site’s ash trees are a main characteristic of the interior.
The street-side exterior is composed of a dynamic mix of façade materials and shapes. Storm water from the building is captured and slowly fed into a rain garden from underground tanks.
A hour-long film titled Up From Ashes details the process of building this exemplary library, from exploring the forest in transition to the design and raising of the building.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Paying attention to a building’s site allows natural systems to function in union with the built environment. The Traverwood Library makes elegant use of materials from the site, features a footprint that minimizes site disturbances, and feeds rainwater back into the local environment.
Photographs © Justin Maconochie