Azkoitia Municipal Library
Azkoitia, Gipúzcoa, Spain, 2007
Architect: Estudio Beldarrain
Photos: © Jon Cazenave
When the Azkoitia municipal library — already located in a former train station —grew too small, the town council organized a competition for proposals to enlarge and reconfigure the rooms and provide disabled access. The winning project, by Estudio Beldarrain, proposed a striking reuse of old railroad ties.
The architects' goal was to establish a sympathetic relationship with a nearby park; this was the goal in selecting a natural material — the aged oak ties — for the facade. But the reuse posed a problem: the ties contained creosote, made with benzopyrene, a potentially carcinogenic substance whose use is limited by a European Union directive. The solution was to hire a testing lab to evaluate the ties and enable the architects to choose ties with low levels of creosote.