Ballard is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Seattle right now but its roots come from the stoic Scandinavian and maritime tradition. Luckily the green roofed Ballard Library bridges these two aspects in a beautiful light capturing design. The hero of the story is a huge saddle roof that takes on the quality of a hill. The green roof sweeps over the building and extends around the library perimeters to provide shelter from the weather. Sunlight is harvested to flood the interior and feed the solar electric panels that line the roof.
A prominent feature of Northwestern architecture is exposed heavy glue-lams or wooden beams supporting and shaping the roof and this project by Architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson does not disappoint with its use of those architectural details. Its sweeping profile adds a gentle green character to the neighborhood. The columns and purloins feel a bit like a forest. The roof consists of 18,000 low water plantings which library patrons can check out up close through a rooftop “periscope” near the checkout desk. The green roof absorbs a tremendous amount of storm water in the rainy city, reducing stress on the city’s drains. The roof also helps maintain the temperature inside as well as adding some biodiversity to the neighborhood.
The sweep of the roof helps the building in several important ways. The extended overhangs add a welcoming and sheltered entrance to the interior. The roof also rises dramatically to the north, allowing soft indirect light to flood the interior. This not only makes for a more comfortable reading environment but reduces the required lighting and cooling. A generous installation of skylights adds to the lighting profile. Below the northwestern corner is the round steel shingled community room which adds a smart contrast to the wooden exterior.
17 solar panels set on the north end demonstrate the potential of PV and share space with a large array of sensors measure rooftop weather conditions that feeds an in-house art work, displaying an interpretation of the measurements on an LED display.
Photos© Nic Lehoux