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Library Connection at Southcenter


Posted: November 16, 2018 | Projects

The Library Connection at Southcenter is a public library that is located inside the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, Washington. With nearly 2,000,000 square feet and hundreds of retail tenants, Southcenter is the largest indoor shopping mall in the state of Washington. The King County Library System operates three branch libraries inside shopping malls, as a strategy to bring library services directly to a suburban population that might not otherwise visit a public library. It also provides a quiet respite for stressed shoppers. These “retail” branch libraries are heavily used, with circulation and visit counts that are among the highest in the system of fifty branch libraries.

The library in the Southcenter Mall was first established a decade ago. The existing library had a deep and narrow “L”-shaped floor plan which compromised the interior layout. Two small and separated entries diffused the library’s presence, and adjacent stores and activity obscured its visibility. This project has fully remodeled the existing library, expanded it into an adjacent corner retail space, and worked to rebrand and establish a new and prominent library façade inside the mall.

A construction cost budget of $650,000 and a low-bid project delivery required a highly prioritized approach to the design. Existing interior ceiling finishes were removed and overhead infrastructure was left exposed and painted white. Existing glass globe light fixtures were salvaged, re-lamped with LEDs, and reconfigured in a clustered array in the center of the library. Existing shelving was retained and repositioned, and computer workstation furniture was modified and reused. It was also determined that the two existing storefront entrances had to remain unchanged due to budget constraints.

With existing elements cost-effectively altered and repurposed, priority was placed on the development of the new retail façade which connects the two existing entrances, creates a cohesive and continuous façade, and establishes a highly visible new presence for the library.

The façade was conceived to present a strong and inviting presence from outside, while the inside provides refuge from the busy shopping environment. Composed of opaque, transparent, and translucent materials, the façade is a screen of varying density that offers a range of experience from both sides. Resin panels in bold colors, graphic signage, and internally illuminated display windows respond to the retail context of the mall.

Patron services extend into the mall corridor with librarian-curated book displays and a touch-screen computer interface for ordering books and accessing library information. Inside, patrons find varying levels of visibility and exposure at seating and study areas lining the façade.

The Library Connection at Southcenter inverts expectations of public and private space by locating a free and open civic place within the privately-held commercial zone of the mall. With an emphasis on world languages, periodicals, public access computers, Wi-Fi, charging stations, and comfortable seating, the new Southcenter Library represents a continuing evolution in library services and the expanding realm of the public library.


Storefronts: Kawneer
Flooring: Milliken
Lighting: Eureka

Project Team

159 Western Avenue., W., #486
Seattle, WA 98119

Structural Engineer 
Swenson Say Faget
2124 3rd Avenue, #100
Seattle, WA 98121

Mechanical Engineer
Greenbusch Group, Inc.
1900 W. Nickerson Street, #201
Seattle, WA 98119

Electrical Engineer
Travis Fitzmaurice & Associates
1200 Westlake Avenue, N., #509
Seattle, WA 98109

Cost Estimator
Robinson Company
101 Stewart Street, #925
Seattle, WA 98101

General Contractor
Allen-Bradbury Construction, LLC
901 Algona Boulevard, #A
Algona, WA 98001

Lighting Designer
Dark Light Design
1511 3rd Avenue, #700
Seattle, WA 98101

Location: Tukwila, Washington
Date Bid: Nov 2016
Construction Period: Feb 2017 to Aug 2017          
Total Square Feet: 4,298
Site: N/A
Number of Buildings: One.
Building Sizes: First floor, 4,298; total, 4,298 square feet.  
Building Height: First floor, 15′6″; total, 15′6″.  
Basic Construction Type: Interior Adaptive Reuse.
Interior Walls: Metal stud drywall.

View full project details in magazine issue November-December 2018.