01-03-2021

Fivedot turns a casino into a public library

Studio Fivedot,

Cleary O’Farrell,

Kent, Washington, USA,

Libraries,

Refurbishment,

Kent Panther Lake Library in Kent, Washington, designed by Seattle-based collaborative architecture and design studio Fivedot, turns a casino, which took from the local community, into a library, that gives back to the community, bringing new cultural and intellectual stimuli.



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Fivedot turns a casino into a public library 
We often talk about libraries, public institutions which continue to play an important role in our cities as an essential component of their social infrastructure even in the digital age. The library is one of the few public spaces left to us, a place for sharing, learning and discovery. And libraries are now expanding to offer not only books on loan but new multimedia functions.
All this is the case of Kent, a town in King County, Washington State, in the heart of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area in the United States. Collaborative architecture and design studio Fivedot of Seattle was appointed to design a new public library as part of the Capital Bond Measure programme, an initiative intended to improve Seattle King County’s public library system by opening 17 new libraries, expanding 11 more and renovating the remaining 14. But in this case, the last project in the initiative, the available budget was tight, requiring a creative solution; the Fivedot design team responded by reclaiming an existing building in a declining neighbourhood in Panther Lake, a part of the town of Kent which is geographically and culturally separate from the rest of the city, overlooking it from the top of a plateau, and has a highly varied population. Residents asked the designers to create a library that would serve not only as a cultural centre but as a focal point for defining their identity. 
Fivedot’s project has brought multiple benefits to the community. First of all, by converting an old casino: a place that impoverished the people and led to dependencies has now been replaced by a library measuring almost 500 square metres that attracts people of all ages, expanding their knowledge and culture. 
The old casino, a closed-in construction, was given big windows to open up a direct dialogue with the community. Big skylights fill the reading area with light, while planters in front of the windows help bring the landscape into the building while screening the view of the parking lot outside. The library is a place for learning, meeting and sharing, with a welcoming entrance and personalised design touches such as custom-made furniture by local furniture-maker 16th Workshop, an excellent selection of art and a staff that helps make Kent Panther Lake Library a true home for the Kent Panther Lake community. 
Fivedot’s project reveals how recovery of an existing building, enriched with a cultural programme for all ages, can make an active contribution to social improvement of what was a declining neighbourhood, and how a library can become a new urban landmark even without sensational architecture, a lighthouse for the Panther Lake community.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Fivedot
Location: Kent, Washington, USA
Year: 2020
Images: Cleary O’Farrell

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