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April 18, 2016

Renton's unique 1960s library gets a new exterior, interior and top award

The library was an engineering feat when in opened, with pre-cast concrete and wood truss joists that created a stunning 80-foot central span across the river.

The Renton Library was built over the Cedar River in 1966 but its recent renovation just won an award from the American Institute of Architects and American Library Association.

The library is at 100 Mill Ave S., and was one of seven projects to win Library Building Awards for 2016.

The structure was designed in the 1960s by Felix M. Campanella and David Arthur Johnston of Johnston-Campanella-Murakami and Co.

The Miller Hull Partnership was the architect and CE&C was the contractor for renovating the 19,500-square-foot library, which reopened in August of 2015.

The city of Renton originally built and operated the library, but it was annexed in 2010 to the King County Library System.

There was a proposal to replace the library at a site downtown because of concerns about the cost of renovation as well as security, visibility and permits for working over the river. But that plan was controversial so it was put to a public vote in 2012, and the Cedar River site won.

The city paid $10.2 million for the renovation, and KCLS paid $1.6 million for furnishings, the collection and other items.

Miller Hull said the library was an engineering feat when in opened, with pre-cast concrete and wood truss joists that created a stunning 80-foot central span across the river and salmon habitat.

But by 2015 the building envelope was deteriorating and failed to meet current energy codes. The structural system and chief design element did not measure up to current seismic standards, and could not withstand potential soil liquefaction. Also, the systems could not meet the power and data demands of a 21st century library.

The renovation involved building a new exterior and interior in and around the existing building.

Large windows and an open plan connect the library and river.

Miller Hull said the original superstructure was maintained, but an energy efficient exterior was added with floor-to-ceiling views of the river as well as new cross bracing and aluminum siding.

The floor plan now celebrates the central span and highlights views of the river, Miller Hull said. Large windows and an open floor plan connect the library with the river and provide an airy atmosphere for the collection stacks, children's areas, reading rooms and computer areas.

Power and data drops from the ceiling combine aircraft cable and steel connections that visually anchor computer stations and study tables. The main entry was relocated to make it more visible and accessible.

KCLS said it knows of no other library built over a river, and notes that the location offers a grand view of salmon on their annual runs.

Miller Hull said the original structure could not be constructed today because of the fragile ecosystem below, so all the renovation work took place beyond the ordinary high water mark. Landward pilings were used to upgrade the building seismically, avoiding habitat disruption and a morass of permit oversight, the firm said.

The original library was dedicated April 17, 1966. The city of Renton said the design won an award from Dow Chemical Co. in 1965 — before the building was completed — for its innovative use of materials.

KCLS said it knows of no other library built over a river.

Other firms on the renovation team are: Coughlin Porter Lundeen, civil and structural engineer; SiteWorkshop, landscape architect; PAE Consulting Engineers, mechanical and plumbing engineers; Stantec, electrical engineer, acoustical design and lighting; GeoEngineers, geotechnical engineer; Christa Jansen, interior designer; Roen Associates, cost estimator; Talasaea Consultants, environmental; Wetherholt and Associates, envelope; Gordon Adams, hardware; and Tuazon Engineering, sprinkler.

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