On the Boards: Bigfork ImagineIF Library
The Cushing Terrell team is currently engaged in the design of the new ImagineIF Library in Bigfork, Montana. The project involves a full interior and exterior renovation of an existing 6,000 sq. ft. church hall that will house the library and offer a place of exploration and discovery for people of all ages.
The vision for the design acknowledges that, in many ways, libraries serve as a bridge in their communities — a bridge between people, generations, technology, and learning. The bridge metaphor is also important in creating a strong sense of place. Bigfork is a water-focused community located next to Flathead Lake and tucked into Bigfork Harbor with bridges that cross Swan River.
For the Bigfork ImagineIF Library, the design expresses the bridge metaphor through architectural forms that visually and functionally connect the spaces throughout the building. For example, the team designed wood-beam elements that will span the volume of the large, open ceiling space. These include a bridge-like feature that will connect front and back entrances. From the front entrance, you will be able to see through the building, inspiring curiosity and drawing people into the building. Going out the back entrance, you will discover an amphitheater space surrounded by trees.
Understanding that a 21st century library is much more than books, the space will be fully equipped and enabled from a technology perspective. Given that the floor of the building is a solid concrete slab, the design team thought to utilize the hollow wood beams that hold up the bridge element to run power throughout the space. This solution is not only cost effective, but also functional and aesthetically pleasing, tying into the overall theme of the project.
With existing buildings, you have to embrace the existing conditions and listen to what the building is telling you. For this project, the concrete foundation and staggered retaining foundation walls meant we had to create an angled entry, resulting in the bridge feature also angling through the building to the back entry. It’s off center, but I think this makes it special, more interesting and dynamic.
Modern forms and materials serve as a backdrop for discovery both inside and outside the building with a variety of environments to explore. Shapes inside will mimic rivers, trees, and mountains. For example, the team designed elements that will create dappled light and shadows (much like in a forest) with clerestory windows that direct light through shapes cutout in the balcony-area railings. Wavy, blue acoustic baffles in the ceiling space will serve a functional purpose as well as represent a river flowing through the space.
The exterior design is minimal and modern and will include a wood-slat rain screen on the front and back faces of the building. The concrete entrance and exit forms will act as “buttresses” to the interior bridge element. The rear of the building will feature landscaping that utilizes the existing grade to provide outdoor seating for small events.
The ImagineIF Libraries — located in Bigfork, Columbia Falls, and Kalispell — provide educational and recreational materials, programs, and resources to promote literacy, inspire lifelong learning, and enrich the community.