Library! at Bown Crossing

Boise, Idaho

How do we create a new building that feels familiar when the doors first open?

An evening photo of a 2-winged library with floor to ceiling windows. The interior light shows a gallery space with hard backed chairs in the left wing, and a large reading room in the right wing. The entry sequence to the building is via a beautiful, large plaza formed by a combination of cement, pavers and a small grass area. Cement benches which are up-lit from beneath rest between young trees.

The design for the Library! at Bown Crossing originates from a historic and natural context that uniquely links building and place. Panoramic mountain views are to the north, while historic East Boise Avenue and the Oregon Trail lie to the south. The site itself is nestled between pedestrian-oriented commercial development and an elementary school. With this range of community context surrounding it, the new library is poised to strengthen the physical and psychological connections among these elements by building on the unique history, natural ecology, and contemporary vitality of the area.

Building form of the library responds to specific influences of the site design and surroundings. The radial geometry locks into major wall and column lines of the building as well as the plaza layout. Visible from any angle, the building effectively has no back side, as people may be parking, approaching, or viewing the building from a variety of vantage points. Building massing is oriented to obtain optimal views for library visitors and the site is oriented to filter rainwater through thoughtfully-placed bioswales filled with native plantings. Layered roof forms, battered walls, and stone materiality draw inspiration from the backdrop of the Boise foothills.


Year Completed:
16,000 sf
Project Contact:
Troy Ainsworth, AIA
Principal, Market Lead

LEED v.4 Silver NC

ArchDaily Publication

Access to Views
Site Layout


On average, Boise gets just about 12 inches of annual precipitation, and very little of that comes during the blazing hot summer months. This high desert climate does, however, have a wide range of beautiful native plants. Library! at Bown Crossing had the goal of demonstrating the low maintenance xeriscaping opportunities for the local community with a thoughtful showcase garden at the entry.


Seven years in the planning and making, the Bown Crossing branch is unlike any of the other 5 Boise libraries – with its clean use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, spectacular fireplace, 28 public computers, multiple study and meeting rooms, and 40,000 lending items. The building also has many sustainability features – used both as learning tools for the community and to help in reaching the library’s goal of being LEED certified.¬†Once certified, Library! at Bown Crossing will be the first LEED v.4 NC Certification building in the state of Idaho.

Another key material distinctive of the library is sandstone from local quarries in the Boise foothills, which has been a key component of Boise architecture for generations. The historic Bown House, built in 1879, sits directly adjacent to the library and features sandstone hauled from a quarry near Table Rock in the neighboring Treasure Valley. The decision to feature local sandstone in the Library! at Bown Crossing was made early in the design process as a gesture of homage to the historic home, and it ultimately became a driver in the design strategy. The stone, which was custom cut and scored for the building, was drawn from the same quarry as its historic neighbor. Translated into a modern architectural vocabulary, this material choice links the library to local history, the land it came from, and modern Boise as a whole.