Starbucks at Suzzallo Library, University of Washington

Situated in Suzzallo Library—the historic 1926 Collegiate Gothic-styled library located at the heart of the University of Washington—the flagship Starbucks café sits just off the primary entry lobby.

  • area / size 4,100 sqft
  • Year 2018
  • The 4,100-square-foot space was originally used as a reading room, and after a building renovation in 2002, was converted to a student lounge and café.

    With concept design by the in-house design team at Starbucks, Graham Baba Architects was responsible for realizing the design and managing the process on behalf of the University. Principle among the design challenges was the integration of the necessary infrastructure improvements into a historic structure. Construction inside of the fully-operational university library, required detailed coordination to navigate the sensitive spaces above and below the cafe, as well as integrating the corporate brand and culture of Starbucks within the university setting.

    To organize the space, large-scale elements were introduced to serve provide an underlying structure. A large service island (13’-9” x 33’-6”), wrapped by reclaimed wood and two-tone cement flooring, takes center stage. On one side of the island are grab-and-go cases and espresso machines stations. On the opposite side is a long specialty coffee bar. Surrounding the island is seating for more than 100 customers through a mix of lounge chairs, soft sofas, café and bar seating, as well as community tables—all with easy access to electrical convenience outlets. Custom wood and steel sliding panels wrap the room’s perimeter and provide concealed access to existing mechanical equipment.

    The public spaces of the café are separated from the back-of-house by a large, steel-and-wood screen wall which houses a commissioned multi-media art piece. The 40-foot sculpture is made with found coffee-related objects, and historical objects from the Suzzallo Library, along with hand-fabricated elements and reclaimed wood. The concept was inspired by the ornate detailing on Suzzallo Library’s façade and the hand-carved friezes atop the oak bookcases that line the library walls. Local artist Matthew Olds, who studied art at the UW, created the multi-layered art work to tell the story of the many hands involved in the coffee journey, from bean to cup.

    Original elements within the space, including the original doors, ornate iron scrollwork, and original steel-framed, stained-glass windows, were preserved. The windows provide natural light into the partial-basement space. New elements such as metalwork and columns reference the building’s metal structural features. New ceiling finishes and lighting (featuring LED light fixtures), new flooring, and low-emitting paints and coatings.

    The space functions for students in much the same way neighborhood Starbucks stores do, providing a place to meet up with friends, work together on a project, or simply relax. A variety of seating and settings supports this idea. The space serves as a warm and welcoming space for the thousands of students, faculty, staff and guests who visit the library each day.

    Architect: Graham Baba Architects
    Design Team: Jim Graham, Brett Baba, Brian Jonas, Jenn LaFreniere, Liz Kee
    Interior Design: Starbucks Coffee Company
    Contractor: Centennial Contractors Enterprises
    PhotographyBenjamin Benschneider