Transformative restoration of the St. Louis Central Library by Cannon Design
Cannon Design has completed work on the transformative restoration, renovation and adaptive reuse of the St. Louis Public Library, Central Library. The crown jewel of the St. Louis Public Library system, Central Library was originally funded by Andrew Carnegie and designed by renowned architect Cass Gilbert in 1912.
The Library’s revitalisation increases public space by more than 38,000 sq ft, modernises the library for the 21st century, contributes to the urban renewal of St. Louis and enhances the building’s stature as a cultural treasure. More than 11,000 people visited the library in its opening week.
The original three-storey building was designed in Beaux Arts style featuring a ceremonial granite stair, vaulted reception foyer and centrally located Great Hall. The hall is surrounded by five wings, four dedicated to public reading rooms and the fifth, the North Wing, to a multistorey depositry of books closed to the public. A structurally independent steel skeleton, doubling as a book shelves and floor support, was inserted by Gilbert between the walls of the North Wing. This 'building within the building', required replacement to address fire and seismic hazard.
The North Wing transformation truly rejuvenates the library and brings it into the 21st century with the removal of old book stacks and the insertion of a new 'building within the building'. Now, a multistorey public atrium provides and accessible and welcoming entry. Glass enclosed upper levels house the collection with compact density bookshelves. These books are now visible to the public as visual elements of the space. The north wall windows, now clear glass, bounce natural light deep into the interior and provide striking views.
The Great Hall and four public wings are restored and revitalised to their turn-of-the-century splendor and equipped with new mechanical, electrical and fire protection systems along with modern data and electric raceways. A new public entry on Locust Street defers to Gilbert’s original façade as a canopy that arises from a pool of water without touching the building. The new entrance opens up the building to a surrounding urban neighbourhood north of the library.
“Looking at the library project, I’m most proud of how we’ve created a solution where the new structure and existing building live in harmony,” said George Nikolajevich, FAIA, Design Principal. “The design feels natural… a really great place to visit and spend time. I take pride in knowing the design feels effortless and hope it proves timeless.”