Snøhetta designs for Temple University

Nick Myall
Tuesday 26 Jan 2016

Snøhetta and Stantec create a new library for Temple University in Philadelphia inspired by the historic academies of Greek antiquity

In late 2018, North Philadelphia, USA, will be the home of Snøhetta’s latest new library, designed in collaboration with Stantec. 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 centres, sophisticated information technology, public spaces and an event hall will be housed under one roof. This will establish a vibrant centre 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 will soon begin 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. 

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 surrounding landscape of terraced plazas step up to the library entrances, providing outdoor classrooms and opportunities for informal gatherings. 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-storey 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 centre of the library’s activity. Arriving at the top floor, the visitor reaches a sun-filled reading room with traditional browsing stacks. Its light and airy character rises from the more opaque base, and opens up to the library’s green-roof via a terrace with stepped seating, providing a unique outdoor space for students.

This new library will put Temple University at the forefront of progressive research institutions. Acting as a new social, cultural, and intellectual hub for the university and surrounding community, the design serves the contemporary needs of a world-class research facility and its students.

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Nick Myall

News Editor

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