Seattle Public Library Ballard Branch

Project Overview

The Seattle Public Library’s “Libraries for All “building program is the direct result of the citizen support for cultural venues in neighborhoods. All libraries preserve artifacts, display art, and make ideas available in logical formats for the enrichment of society. Historically, libraries are beautiful — sometimes monumental — structures that reflect a society’s values and aspirations. Pacific Northwest values are evident in Seattle’s Ballard Branch Library.

Site preparation included the demolition of an existing structure and parking area, the removal of 9,000 cubic yards of soil, and the construction of 10,000 square feet of underground parking. With this in place, it was time to make the vision of the neighborhood’s citizens a reality.

Northwest values are green. With this in mind, a roof garden was incorporated in the design. The garden roof carries 13,504 selected plants growing in a micro-environment created over 14,000 square feet of coconut fiber mesh, 2 ½ inches of bark mulch and 5 ½ inches of lightweight top soil. A water collection system is embedded for maximum efficiency.

The Neighborhood Service Center element of the structure boasts a glazed-in solar area that powers the entire NSC electrical system. Each of 17 solar panels has a meter showing outputs installed in the curtain wall mullions for public viewing. To deepen the green experience, a custom two-story, five-mirror system periscope looks out over the entire roof landscape and an array of scientific devices.

The interior is pure Northwest. The Glu-Lam structure that supports the garden roof structure is constructed with more than 700 hand-sorted beams matched for grain and cosmetic appearance. The beams were laser fabricated, allowing installation with no further cutting. Cedar, fir, and solid maple are used throughout the structure.

The overall result is a dramatic manifestation of Northwest culture in Northwestern materials.


Seattle Public Library
Seattle, WA
Seattle – Buildings Construction
PCL Construction Services, Inc.
Government Public Facilities and Military
General Contracting


AIA National Award - American Institute of Architects

AIA Commendation Award - American Institute of Architects - Seattle Chapter