Seattle University Lemieux Library McGoldrick Learning Commons

Our mission was to design a learner-centered interior environment as collaborative, interactive, stimulating, adaptable and social as its users. In both the new and renewed spaces, students academic and social needs were addressed by the creation of an expandable 24-hour zone, a caf and a choice of furnishings in reading rooms, collaborative and individual study spaces that accommodate both operational needs and user comfort. Alongside research assistance and other traditional library services are a writing center, math lab, mentoring commons, smart classrooms, group study rooms and a media production center, all equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Striking finish materials create rich. contextual site-specific “neighborhoods.” Open-plan layout and mobile furniture throughout invites reconfiguration, teaming, increased interaction between students and faculty, an interdisciplinary approach to learning, and participation in the library as “lab.”
The University aspired to re-imagine a campus academic hub by transforming its technologically and pedagogically dated 1966 library. The need had been recognized for more than a decade and was seen as a key element of a vision to become the premier university in its part of the U.S. The University wanted the library and learning commons to reflect its commitment a technology-rich, student/learner-centered institution that promotes engagement and active learning, provides specialized resources, and encourages creativity and collaboration through media, while offering both sanctuary and the sense of a community square.
The librarys location on a sloping site with an adjacent student center afforded linkage of program, form and site with purpose and vision. The site and the orientation of the existing library on campus lent itself perfectly to what ended up being a 33,000-square-foot addition. The design maximizes the sloping site to create a plaza, establishing a new academic core for the campus and creating an expansion that would aesthetically flow with and enhance the modernist, steel-and-concrete building. The existing building and the lawn in front was a popular university place for good-weather activities. We wanted to make sure that whatever we did not only maintained this quality, but further enhanced it, affording a multitude of outdoor experiences, whether it be relaxation, study related, or social.

We designed a three-story addition on the eastern side of the building, stepped down so that the second story of the addition lines up with the first floor of the existing building. The result is a gradual step-down the mass of the addition successfully negotiates the sloping terrain, creating a visual continuity/connection between the cross atop the building and the plaza below. In addition, lowering the three-story addition to the plaza level further enhances the visual connection between the addition and the adjacent buildings, creating a much more successfully scaled environment for a campus core. The use of complementary materials and the introduction of roman brick strengthens that relationship and recalls earlier buildings on the campus. The simple yet complex use of scale and materiality help create a new aesthetic, which includes reversing some of the brick faces to accentuate texture through light and shadow. The interplay between the brick planes and glass planes is an intentional architectural move, creating a layered and energetic faade in the core of campus.

Charged with preserving the original steel, concrete and marble library faade, with its strong symmetrical monolithic character, we pulled the new addition away from the existing building and inserted a glass link, allowing the original east faade to seamlessly slip into the interior of the new addition. This is key to the recognition of the past within the envelope of the future. The marbles hues and veining inspired the vertical frit pattern design visible on the new east curtain wall and interior glass partitions. This highly transparent, welcoming faade unites the old with the new and draws in passersby with the visible activity inside.

Recently awarded a LEED Gold certificate, the addition, renovation and landscape features confirm the Universitys commitment to integrating sustainable strategies and low impact development. Storm water management captures runoff water, directs it through two sculptural water features to infiltration at a rain garden. This organic path, which elegantly navigates the sloping site, begins in a river rock pool near the north entrance of the building and moves through cleansing swales, graced with native plants and water walls of reclaimed granite, which meet LEED and SSI standards for water features.

Interior sustainable elements include reuse and repurposing of the existing building, the shelving and some furniture; raised-floor access system for under-floor air supply and data/electrical infrastructure distribution; and floor-to-ceiling glass curtain walls and skylights that provide abundant daylighting along with energy efficient high-output light fixtures and motion sensors that significantly contribute to reduced consumption. Other sustainable elements are FSC certified woods, low-emitting finishing materials, and Green Guard certified furnishings with high recycled content.


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901 12th Avenue, Seattle, 98122,