Core Design Team
Firm: Integrus Architecture
Library Programming Consultant: Group 4 Architecture
Mechanical Engineering: MW Consulting Engineers
Electrical Engineering: MW Consulting Engineers
Lighting: MW Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineer: AHBL
Landscape Architect: AHBL
The Hive is the most community-responsive project built in a complete system overhaul of the Spokane Public Library (SPL) facilities. It evolved as a unique outcome of a planning process initiated by SPL prior to seeking bond funding for the new facilities. The design team facilitated multiple round-tables and town hall discussions at all six existing libraries and held a series of Community Advisory Committee meetings consisting of civic leaders, community activists, and members of Spokane’s BIPOC communities. The process painted a clear picture of an underserved minority community centered around the East Central Library, the city’s smallest branch.
Two sites within the neighborhood, one on each side of Interstate 90, were identified for development of two libraries to meet the identified need. These sites were specifically chosen to reconnect a community that had been split by the freeway construction. Once this approach was established it was clear that the community didn’t need two traditional libraries, but something new.
Spokane Public Library (SPL) and Spokane Public Schools (SPS) joined forces to create a unique partnership and innovative building approach that houses SPS’s Virtual Learning program and large flexible teacher training spaces, as well as artist studios and an event gallery for SPL. The Hive would offer a new concept of library, serving the community’s need for meeting space and access to arts education. This community minded project allows free 24/7 access and rather than a collection of books and computers it provides a collection of spaces that can be “checked-out” for meeting, training, and creating.
Located on a gritty historically underserved commercial strip, the design is inspired by and embraces its diverse context of mixed businesses and warehouses. The Hive’s honest and inspired response to this diverse context is a unique cultural and aesthetic reaction. The concept of embracing sign, symbol, and image in architecture and the environment was a guiding design principle, as well as considering “an architecture for 40 mph”, in direct response to the Hive’s location on Sprague Avenue, a heavily traveled commercial strip. Color, signage, and whimsey contribute to the idea of building as billboard and help celebrate the building as a “hive of learning activity.”
The Hive is a project entirely about discovery. A composition of human-scaled volumes organized together are at the core of the building’s scale and massing solution and complement the automobile-oriented character of Sprague Avenue. Shop signage and transparency communicate a retail-like personality intending to visually connect with the surrounding commercial character and the passerby. A casual visitor enticed by the building signage will enter the building from the busy street or parking area and find a quiet entry gallery with community artwork displayed and artists at work in their studio spaces. Through design features such as the transparent storefronts and interior garage doors, the process and work of these artists’ are always on display for the community to see.
This modestly budgeted, publicly funded project embraces the idea of using everyday materials in innovative ways. Maintenance free, off the shelf metal panel siding, CMU block, and exposed common lumber for structural framing are the major materials used and are inherently sustainable. This design embraces the notion that there is great economy and sustainability in simplicity. Exposed raw finishes provide a simple unpretentious interior palette that relates to its users and will wear well over time as the building patinas. Other considerations included a simple repeatable module of 4’ that organizes the building and reduces material waste, interior plywood on walls and sealed concrete floors are used for durability in many areas, and an exposed simple roof structure is both function and finish in a single material. Exposing a wood structural system and limiting unnecessary finishes in the building reduced the cost and embodied carbon footprint of the building.
The Hive goes beyond what is required by the state energy code to provide a building that is efficient and low maintenance. Design for environmental sensitivity includes:
- Urban Infill Site: Previous buildings were razed and to become a used car lot but sat vacant for some time prior to this project’s inception.
- Materials: Use of everyday materials in innovative ways (as discussed above.) Exposing the building’s inherent construction to act as the ‘finish’ reduces the need for additional unnecessary finishes. Efficient and repeatable 4’ module reduces material waste.
- Landscape: Approximately 50 trees added to the 1.8 acre site, native plantings along the street, turf is minimized to spaces that support building programs, and high efficiency irrigation is estimated to provide water savings of at least 50%.
- Water: Consumption is reduced by 35% when compared to baseline design requirements.
- Energy: High efficiency equipment that exceeds state energy code requirements – boiler, chiller and VFD for water pump. Integration with building controls to condition as-needed.
This project represents a concerted effort to bring together similar but subtly different functions under one roof with the overarching goal of providing a shared multifaceted resource for the community. Design for integration ideas included:
- Multiple ‘Owners’: Two publicly focused owners and three learning programs (as discussed above).
- Location: Centrally located in the city, intentionally not downtown, and on a commercial arterial and bus route.
- Access: Building use is free, spaces are reserved on-line and open all hours. Spaces are visually accessible and transparent, so learning extends beyond the building walls.
- Simple & Relatable: ‘An interaction of simples’
- An intentionally simple diagram organized by a shared gallery-spine allowing for display of work, and interaction of building occupants utilizing the space for different purposes.
- Animated, simple gestures of signage and experiential graphics create an intended ‘buzz’ along this commercial strip context to make the building welcoming and more relatable.
To ensure project success, it was critical during the planning process to develop strong relationships with all stakeholders, their vision and creative thinking played a significant role in the solution as a facility and program like this had never been done before, there was no precedent. Because the idea of the Hive grew organically from the process, a strong, trusting relationship was developed between designers, users, and the community which made it extremely rewarding. The Stakeholders included:
- Spokane Public Library – Artist-in-Residence Program
- Spokane Public Schools – Virtual Learning Program
- East Central Neighborhood – Contributed to site selection and provided input on what services should be offered.
The blending of these community-based groups was critical in optimizing shared building assets that mutually benefit all parties involved and the community. It should be noted, that in the spirit of collaboration Spokane Public Schools donated the land for this project.
Operating outside the bounds of traditional “library” means that the ultimate performance of the project is yet to be known. Design discussions with the SPL revolved around what would be possible with the space if the initial concept for its operation changed. However, at the time of this submission the second group of artists-in-residence at the facility are finishing up their tenure. For the artists and the community, the initial concept has been a resounding success with high demand for the gathering space and artist opportunities (36 applications submitted already.) The artists-in-residence complete a monthly instruction open house to teach and share their work with the community and their work is featured and shared through the SPL’s newsletters, websites, and social media to reach a broad audience.
Shawn Brigman, PhD, an enrolled member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians and descendant of northern Plateau bands (snʕáyckst – sinixt, sənpʕʷilx – san poil, and tk’emlúps te secwepemc – shuswap), has used his in-residence-studio time to explore skinning materials for application to sturgeon-nosed canoe interpretations from the Plateau culture region, as well as the recovery of handheld scale implements like basketry and salmon nets. He has used the largest studio space at The Hive to complete two traditional sturgeon-nosed canoes as the spacious studio allows him to work on multiple canoes simultaneously. One canoe built at The Hive will be displayed at the Burke Gilman Museum in Seattle. Another was sold to an anonymous client in Spokane Valley. This was his first canoe sold since the pandemic started in March 2020, so we can see how The Hive is creating a direct economic impact for a Native-owned business, an added unexpected benefit.
Client satisfaction is closely tied to community use and reception of the project, which as you can see in the above project narrative has been astoundingly positive thus far