Civic leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, unveiled renderings yesterday for a $100 million “library of the future” designed by Snøhetta and partners, which is intended to be an anchor for revitalization efforts in uptown Charlotte.
The unveiling marked the culmination of a two-year effort to design a new Main Library for the Charlotte Mecklenburg system, on the site of its current building at 310 North Tryon Street.
In 2017 the library system selected Snøhetta to serve as the design architect, with Clark Nexsen of Charlotte as the architect of record and brightspot strategy to lead community engagement and space planning efforts.
Plans call for a 115,000-square-foot building with five levels above ground, and one below. The above-ground portion will be a curving structure (the firm is no stranger to designing swooping libraries), clad in glass and ceramic, that frames an entrance plaza and provides views to the activity inside.
At one end, the library will anchor the corner with a translucent “prow” that cantilevers over the sidewalk. Once inside the timber-clad interior space, a soaring atrium with a spiraling stair will help visitors get their bearings and draw them upwards through the building.
There has been a library on the North Tryon Street site since 1903. Library representatives say they hope the new structure, which will replace the current one, will become a major destination for the region.
“The new main library will be an architecturally-distinctive, state-of-the-art, technologically-advanced knowledge center and public commons, where everyone in our community can access the resources of a 21st-century library,” said Charlotte Mecklenburg Library CEO Lee Keesler, in a statement. It also will be a “gateway to a re-imagined North Tryon Street corridor and a catalyst for additional redevelopment.”
“This will be the jewel of the cultural neighborhood,” Snøhetta senior architect Nick Anderson told The Charlotte Observer. “The library will be unique, but we want it to be of this place.”
The renderings show that the building will contain a variety of spaces that are intended to accommodate public gatherings, events, and various employment-oriented services, as well as reading rooms providing access to print and digital materials. There will be a large lobby, cafe, two “immersive” theaters, flexible meeting rooms, and two outdoor terraces.
The lower levels will contain most of the pre-function and event spaces, along with a job training center, counseling services, and maker space offerings, including a technology center, computer lab, and recording studios.
Levels three and four will house the bulk of the collections, while the top floor will have a large reading room, writer’s studio and porch, administrative offices, and a terrace with views of uptown Charlotte.
When Snøhetta was selected to lead the design effort, founding partner Craig Dykers indicated it would be a model in demonstrating how many ways a 21st-century library can serve the public.
“Libraries are more popular today than they have ever been, serving a wider range of needs than access to books only,” he said. “The architecture of libraries is also changing, and Charlotte’s new library will lead the way in showing how a city and its core of knowledge can be open, welcoming and intriguing for decades to come.”
Funding will come from both public and private sources, with Mecklenburg County committing $65 million to build the main library and an offsite “support services center.” The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation, through its newly announced CommonSpark campaign, is raising $50 million for the new library plus another $20 million for the library system. The Knight Foundation also announced a $10 million donation to the project yesterday. Public and private funding for the project is currently totaled at $135 million.
Assuming its fund drive is successful, the library plans to break ground in early 2021 and open the new library in early 2024.
This is the second time Snøhetta, Clark Nexsen, and brightspot have collaborated on a library project, after the 2013 James B. Hunt Jr. Library on the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University.
Other Snøhetta libraries include the Ryerson University Student Learning Center in Toronto; the New Central Library in Calgary; the recently-opened Charles Library at Temple University in Philadelphia; and the Far Rockaway public library in Queens, New York.