Charles Library by Snøhetta and Stantec: 2019 Best of Year Winner for Higher Education

PROJECT NAME Charles Library
LOCATION Philadelphia
FIRMS Snøhetta, Stantec
SQ. FT. 220,000 SQF

The research facility isn’t always the most exciting place on campus. But the new Charles Library at Temple University, a joint venture between Snøhetta and Stantec, is much more than just a book repository. Rather, it’s a human-centric space that embraces its role as a dynamic learning commons within 220,000 square feet and four floors.

That’s partially thanks to its automated book-retrieval system for the 1.5 million on-site volumes, which drastically reduces the space required for stacks. Instead, there’s an unexpected airiness, as evidenced by the cedar-clad atrium topped by a triple-height dome with an oculus. “We were 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,” Stantec’s Tony Clifford says.

Also largely absent are traditional fixed workstations. Laptops and charging banks are scattered throughout, and more than 40 meeting rooms and study spaces are available for reservation. One of two expansive reading rooms on the top floor looks out onto the roof garden, among the largest in Pennsylvania. Adds Snohetta’s Craig Dykers: “It was key that the building expressed its position as the intellectual and social heart of the campus.”

Photography by Michael Grimm.
Photography by Michael Grimm.
Photography by Michael Grimm.
Photography by Michael Grimm.

Project Team: Snøhetta: Michelle Delk; Alan Gordon; Nathan McCrae; Chad Carpenter; Nick Koster; Behrang Behin; Jeff Cheung; Ian Colburn; Jackie Martinez; Kurt Marsh; Karli Molter; Misako Murata; Anne-Rachel Schiffmann. Stantec: Jessica Fisher; Anton Germishuizen; Kristy Hollis; Brennan Onushco; Kristin Shiffert; Scott Sullivan; Michael Thompson.

> See more from the December/January 2020 issue of Interior Design