Traverwood Library

Ann Arbor, Michigan


In 2005, The Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) purchased approximately 4 acres of property for a new branch library to serve the Northeast quadrant of the city of Ann Arbor. The site, heavily wooded and densely vegetated, is located on the Southwest corner of Huron Parkway and Traverwood Drive.

A thorough site analysis identified edges of the property along the Southwest corner which were scarred and sparsely vegetated, an ideal and well suited location for the placement of the building footprint. Locating the building at the property corner accomplished three primary objectives:

  1. The creation of a protective barrier between the existing eco-systems within the woods and the inhabitants of the city.
  2. Established an urban street presence along the street and sidewalk edge.
  3. Minimized site impact, maintaining biodiversity and reducing sprawl.

During the early stages of the site planning process, we collectively began to discuss and investigate considerations for harvesting wood from the site for re-use in the building. Although densely populated, many of the trees were Ash, suffering the effects of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a destructive beetle, which aggressively attacks North American Ash trees through feeding on the water and nutrient conducting tissues under the bark, killing the tree over a period of three to five years.  As of 2009 it was estimated that the EAB had killed over 70 million Ash throughout the Midwest and southern portions of Canada. Preliminary research showed that this particular tree species is especially well-suited to milling, as the insect does not damage the interior portion of the wood. With so much value found in a close, abundant, natural resource, unique uses of the wood in the floors, walls, ceiling and structure of the new branch library were proposed and implemented.

The utilization of the Ash would become a major component to the design of the library interior. Integrated as an interior wrapper, the Ash flows from the main entry floor and walls into a ceiling condition stretching along the entire eastern interior edge of the building and culminating in an Ash wrapped reading rooms whose primary views are focused westward into the forest. Additionally,large sections of the logs were used as structural columns, accommodating vertical and lateral loading along the large southwest expanse of glass. The bark has been stripped from these log columns exposing the randomized grooves and carvings left by the EAB larvae - creating, what is in essences, a visual and tactile testament to the life and destruction of the Ash tree in Michigan and surrounding area, allowing generations to be exposed to an autopsy report of an extinct species in the region.

-Photography by Justin Maconochie


  • 2009, AIA Michigan - Awards, Category: Building