Hay barn serves as regional inspiration for Washington library

A library built last year in Washington’s Methow Valley is designed to reflect the natural landscape of the valley and is modeled on the open-air agrarian buildings in the region—hay barns.

The design for Winthrop Library features elements of the hay barn, such as broad overhangs, open roof trusses, and visible structure; the hay barn form is historic, authentic, and practical. The design also incorporates natural and wildlife-inspired elements, including a sculptural “learning tree” and a unique fabricated plywood-clad “cube,” which comprises activity desks and built-in reading cubbies with custom-designed animal motifs in the children’s area.

The predominant material in the library is wood, meeting both aesthetic and sustainability goals. The main elements of the wooden structure are the 25.4 x 152.4 mm (1 x 6 in.) “nickel-gap” larch exterior wood siding; 25.4 x 101.6 mm (1 x 4 in.) larch interior wood wall and ceiling acoustic slats/ baffles; a 25.4 x 101.6 mm (1 x 4 in.) T&G larch interior wood finish; maple Europly plywood, in many thicknesses including custom, laser-cut application; Douglas Fir— for the window, door trim, and casing; and maple finish carpentry in cabinets and casework, including the custom furniture pieces.

The design of the library was provided by Seattle-based Johnston Architects (JA), who were the design architect, architect of record, and interior designer for the project. JA collaborated with the associate architect, Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects.

While collaborating with the community through Johnston Architect’s charrette process, the library incorporated elements desired by future patrons of the establishment. The new library, spanning over 678 m2 (7,300 sf) of space, solved the problem of a small library in the valley. The new library can hold a collection of over 20,000 materials, and includes study tables, casual counter seating for studying or work, lounge seating, window seats, and a cozy fireplace. To strengthen the library’s inclusion efforts, computers with internet access are provided as well. A makerspace with a 3D printer and other hands-on technology options broadens the patron pool, and a community gathering area with a large meeting room is accessible after-hours.

Completing numerous daylighting and energy studies internally, the Johnston Architects team shifted window openings, doorways, overhangs, and a slatted wooden scrim to best control heat gain and glare during the Methow Valley’s arid summers.

Other collaborators in the project were landscape architect, Karen Kiest Landscape Architecture; general contractor, Impel Construction; mechanical + plumbing engineer (MEP), Sider + Byers; and electrical engineer, AWA Electrical Consultants; structural and civil Engineer, Methow Engineering; and mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection (MEP/FP) engineers, AWA Electrical Consultants (electrical), and Sider + Byers (mechanical and plumbing).

The project received the 2022 Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) building of the year, runner up; and 2022 Seattle DJC project of the week honors.

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