Ballard Library and Neighborhood Service Center

Seattle, Washington, United States

1 / 3
“In appearance it is both spectacularly modern and an inspired nod to the Ballard community's rich maritime tradition. Moreover, it is a 'green' building, showcasing state-of-the-art recycling, energy efficiency, and water conservation.”
Fred Moody, "Ship Shape: In a New Maritime-Inspired Branch Library, a Seattle Neighborhood Has Gotten a Design that Perfectly Fits its Values," Metropolis



This library is the first major project to be built for a new urban core in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Designed with a deep, welcoming front porch and a green roof, this highly visible building has become an icon for the community and a statement of its values. An illustration of green building on a modest budget, this project shows what benefits are realized when sustainable design is combined with extraordinary architecture.

1 / 3
Photo credit: Nic Lehoux

The Nature of Place

Following Ballard’s master plan, the library and neighborhood center present a powerful civic face along a major pedestrian corridor. The building’s extended front porch, a gathering space that provides shelter from the prevailing winds and weather, leads towards the center one block away. Sitting at this potent position between Main Street and the residential neighborhood, it has a transparency that provides a sense of intimacy with the community. The design subtly reflects the area’s Scandinavian and maritime roots. Tapered steel columns, standing like masts, support a lilting roof that extends beyond the entrance and unites the library and service center components.

1 / 6
Photo credit: Nic Lehoux

The Nature of People

This significant civic project was a catalyst for collaboration within the community and benefited from extensive input at all stages of planning. It was truly a group effort among the Seattle Public Library, Neighborhood Service Center, architects, community and various user groups. Artists were selected prior to the commencement of schematic design to allow for the integration of public art into the overall building design. It has been recognized by the city for its successful integration of public process, sustainable features and civic nature, and has the distinction of being the most visited of all Seattle’s branch libraries.

1 / 4
Photo credit: Benjamin Benschneider

The Nature of Materials

The building’s glass skin lets natural light in and bends around the corners, marking the children’s area and service center lobby as special places. A public meeting room, clad in shimmery galvanized shingles, anchors one corner. A periscope, integrated into a wall by the circulation desk, offers patrons views of the green roof. Data about wind, energy usage and rainfall is displayed on LED panels as artwork, making microclimatic conditions created by the building visible to all. Metered photovoltaic panels in the southwest windows reduce heat gain while demonstrating the effectiveness of solar energy in the Pacific Northwest.

1 / 5
Photo credit: Nic Lehoux

Project Data

Seattle, Washington, United States
2002 – 2005
Seattle Public Library
15,000 square feet library + 3,600 square feet service center


Beyond Green Award
Award for Excellence in Place Design
Special Award
Merit Award for Design
Design Award
Green Roof Award of Excellence, Extensive Institutional Category
Award of Commendation for Design
National Honor Award for Design
Top Ten Green Projects
Honor Award for Civic Design
Commendation for Design Excellence and Innovation