Snøhetta-designed Charles Library opens at Temple University in Philadelphia. As a world-class facility for Philadelphia’s only public university, the project marks a transformative moment not only for the Temple University but also for the city, and for academic libraries around the world.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Size: 22,000 sq.ft.
Executive Architect: Snøhetta & Stantec
Architect of Record, Sustainability, LEED Consultant, and MEP Engineering: Stantec
Civil Engineer: Hunt Engineering
Structural Engineer: LERA
IT/AV: Sextant Group
Façade Consultant: Heintges
Green Roof Consultant: Roofmeadow
Lighting Consultant: Tillotson Lighting Design
Programming Consultant: brightspot strategy
Dome Geometry and Framing Fabricator: RadiusTrack
Contractor: Daniel J. Keating
Photography: Michael Grimm
From the architect: To that end, the library’s design houses multiple partner programs and academic resources under a shared roof, while responding to the demonstrated need for increased seating. Anchoring the second and third floors are the Student Success Center, which offers writing and tutoring support; the Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio, with access to digital fabrication and immersive technologies; and Temple University Press. Charles Library is also committed to an all-mobile technology strategy, offering laptops and charging banks on every floor, which in turn liberates workspaces from being locked down by traditional desktops as the technological needs of the students continue to adapt. More than 40 meeting rooms and study spaces, interspersed throughout the building, are available for reservation. In welcoming students from all departments, and offering access to cutting edge technology and a variety of study spaces into a centralized location on campus, these resources will be more accessible than ever to the student body.
While the library offers a uniquely diverse space program tailored to the emerging needs of contemporary students, it also offers the focused research experience of traditional academic libraries. The serene, sun-filled fourth floor encourages visitors to meander through the stacks of the library’s browsable collection. Roughly 200,000 volumes anchor the center of the room, while more private study spaces line its perimeter. Balancing the north and south ends of the fourth floor are two expansive reading rooms, dedicated to graduate, faculty, and undergraduate study. Glazed on all four sides with glass, with views out to the lushly planted green roof, the fourth floor offers an unexpected retreat that feels embedded in nature. Conceived as an amplified meadow landscape, ornamental grasses and herbaceous perennials form the foundation of these reading gardens, through which drifts of curated flowering species and bulbs emerge punctuating color and interest throughout the year. The roof gardens, composed of upwards of 15 different species, provide rich urban habitat for pollinators and a calming visual foreground to the views of the campus and city beyond from the interior of the library.
Covering over 70 percent of the building’s roof surface, the 47,300 square-foot green roof is one of the largest in Pennsylvania and also plays a key role in the site’s stormwater management system. The Charles Library site at large is designed to capture and retain a maximum amount of rainwater not only from the Temple campus but also from Philadelphia’s aging infrastructure, which has been historically overburdened during storm events. Designed to meet the progressive Philadelphia Water Department guidelines, the library’s stormwater management system includes the green roof, pervious paved plazas and paths and landscaped planting beds that infiltrate rainwater, and two underground catchment basins that together can store and process nearly half a million gallons of water during storm events. Taken altogether, the project manages all rainwater runoff on the roughly three-acre site, as well as for an additional acre of offsite impervious ground.
Charles Library embraces the needs of contemporary students and evolving models of learning. 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. It also marks one of the largest investments in new facilities in Temple’s history and serves as a central point of intersection between students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community. As a world-class facility for Philadelphia’s only public university, the project marks a transformative moment not only for the Temple University but also for the city, and for academic libraries around the world.
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Browsable Collection - While the majority of the library’s collection is stored in the ASRS, roughly 200,000 of the collection’s most-browsed volumes are stored on the uppermost level of the building. These stacks anchor the center of the sun-filled fourth floor, glazed on all four sides by transparent glass, while more private study spaces line its perimeter.
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ASRS - Affectionately termed the Bookbot, the high-density automated storage retrieval system (ASRS) stores up to 1.5 million volumes. Its machine learning software optimizes book storage and retrieval speeds through the frequency of student requests, allowing the BookBot to grow even more efficient over time. Charles Library is one of a handful of research libraries in the country to implement such a system to service a full, active-use collection.
Green Roof - Covering over 70 percent of the building’s roof surface, the 47,300 square-foot green roof is one of the largest in Pennsylvania. Over 15 different species of native flowering perennials and ornamental grasses planted along its sloped surface provide rich urban habitat for pollinators and a calming visual foreground to the views of the campus and city beyond from the interior of the library. The green roof also plays a key role in the site’s stormwater management strategy.
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Site Plan Charles Library is sited at the heart of Temple’s Main Campus, with arts, communications and music buildings to the north, the business school to the south, the science and engineering institutions to the east. A generous campus green, adjacent to Charles Library, is planned for the future.