In Fall 2019, North Philadelphia will be the home of Snøhetta’s newest library. The Temple University Library will provide a new social and academic heart for the campus of 37,800 students. A variety of study spaces, resource centers, sophisticated information technology, public spaces and event hall will be housed under one roof, establishing a vibrant center for both students and the surrounding community. The design received unanimous support from the city of Philadelphia’s Civic Design Review in the fall of 2015 and is now under construction.
The design is inspired by the historic academies of Greek antiquity, where social spaces for exchanging ideas were primary and storage of written content took a secondary role. Snøhetta’s design challenges the traditional typology of the research library solely as a repository for books and archives, and instead provides a diversity of spaces that will spark chance encounters, enable collaboration, and encourage knowledge-sharing amongst its users.
Notably, the new library uses an automated book retrieval system to store the majority of the University’s more than 2 million volumes. The ASRS significantly reduces the amount of space needed to store books and allows the building to provide more collaborative learning space and student resources.
Located at the intersection of two major pedestrian pathways and adjacent to a future campus quadrangle, the library will anchor a new academic and social core for Temple University. The new library’s architecture is defined by a solid base clad in vertical sections of rough stone that references the materials of the surrounding campus context. The grand wooden arched entrances cut into the stone volume and announce a welcoming point of entry. Expanses of pleated frameless glass supported on steel mullions create maximum transparency at the major entrances.
The arches continue into the building, forming a 3-story domed atrium lobby with white terrazzo floors. The lobby, café, central atrium and 24/7 zone, which is unimpeded by security checkpoints, will welcome in the surrounding community as well as Temple students.An oculus carved into the lobby’s domed atrium opens up views to each corner of the building, serving as a wayfinding anchor and placing the user at the center of the library’s activity.
As users circulate the building, this visual and physical connectivity allows the individual to take stock of their bearings. Multiple stairways encourage students to use all of the building’s resources. In addition to interactive learning spaces, the library also provides moments for introspective study. As a new intellectual and social hub for the University community, the library will house multiple partner programs and academic resources such as the Writing Center, Digital Scholars Studio, and office space for staff researchers under one roof.
Second floor Writing Center, with view to main atrium. The porous design creates a visual connection to the main atrium and entries, allowing academic resources to be more accessible than ever.
The third floor reading room will be connected visually to the dome and by stair to the fourth floor. Lined with reservable study rooms, the flexible space is clad in the same warm wood of the main atrium and provides a view over the quad.
Arriving at the fully glazed top floor, the visitor reaches the traditional browsing stacks holding 200,000 volumes in an open linear plan. The aperture of the oculus allows users to look down back to lobby, connecting the terminus of the library back to its beginning. The building’s design speaks back to itself, providing an experience that is anchored at both ends by books – with the ASRS on the lowest level and the browsable stacks on the highest floor. Exposed concrete columns stand in contrast with warm wood features, lending the spaces an inviting, casual atmosphere for learning.
Fourth floor quiet reading room
The stacks terminate at a sun-filled reading room with uninterrupted views in three directions.
The fourth floor opens up onto an outdoor terrace which overlooks the future quadrangle. The terrace features stepped seating rising alongside a gently sloped green roof. Native flowering perennials and ornamental grasses create a visual backdrop to this active space.
View from North of third and fourth floors: Graduate Scholars Studio, library staff and research offices. By enhancing the visual and physical connectivity to academic resources and fostering learning through social interaction, the design inspires students to engage more directly with the library’s activity.
Canopies create a sense of welcome and enclosure, inviting students to gather in social spaces outside the library. Terraced plazas step up to the library entrances, providing opportunities for outdoor classrooms and informal gatherings, extending the learning commons beyond the physical boundaries of the library space and into the fabric of the campus as a whole.
A flexible event space along the western facade of the building seats about 120 for lectures, conferences, and a variety of gatherings. A glass wall looks out to Liacouras Walk, allowing pedestrians to peer into the activity within and activating the pedestrian street along the building’s eastern façade.