Snøhetta unveils design for Mecklenburg's Main Library in Charlotte

The new Main Library, designed by Snøhetta and Clark Nexsen, is expected to spur the burgeoning development and cultural scene in Charlotte, North Carolina.

by Zohra Khan Nov 12, 2019

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, one of the leading public library facilities in America that invites more than 3.4 million visitors every year across its 20 branch libraries, is planning to set up a new Main Library. To be designed by architectural firm Snøhetta and Clark Nexsen, the five-storey, ceramic clad building will take shape in the heart of Uptown Charlotte in North Carolina.

The building anchors the corner with a glowing, translucent prow that cantilevers out over the sidewalk | Charlotte Library | Snøhetta | STIRworld
The building anchors the corner with a glowing, translucent prow that cantilevers out over the sidewalkImage Credit: Courtesy of Snøhetta

The project is expected to embrace the mission of becoming more than just a reading facility, and also serve as public-commons, in order to become a signal investment in the burgeoning development of the city.

The design draws itself from the concept of ridgeline, referencing the ancient trading paths carved out by people of the Piedmont region (now called Tryon Street), which also serves as the context of the project. Infused with a rich cultural and topographical influence, the building generates views in a variety of directions and also act as a convergence point that deeply ties people to their place.

Owing to its ridgeline inspired design, the building will generate views in a variety of directions  | Charlotte Library | Snøhetta | STIRworld
Owing to its ridgeline inspired design, the building will generate views in a variety of directions Image Credit: Courtesy of Snøhetta

A glowing, translucent prow cantilevers out of the sidewalk, opening the built mass to the street. The ground floor features a glazed façade that wraps itself around the tapered corner, bringing views deep into the library. A glowing copper soffit makes for a welcoming canopy at the main entrance that leads to the open lobby space. Further inside, a soaring atrium is animated by a web of spiralling stairs that rise up to the uppermost level of the building. As one tread these steps, the unique views of the neighbourhood through the outdoor terrace spaces on the second and fifth floor come alive.

Spiraling wooden stairs rise upwards, animating views of the soaring atrium | Charlotte Library | Snøhetta | STIRworld
Spiraling wooden stairs rise upwards, animating views of the soaring atrium Image Credit: Courtesy of Snøhetta

As per the layout, the active programmes have been positioned on the lower level and as one move upwards, the spaces become fairly private. These various areas within the building include multi-purpose event halls on the lower level; a cafeteria and a theatre on the ground floor; technology centre, computer lab, recording studios on the first floor, and reading rooms and general collection halls spread on the upper floors.

The new library is designed as a centerpiece of an existing cultural district and burgeoning development in Charlotte's Uptown  | Charlotte Library | Snøhetta | STIRworld
The new library is designed as a centerpiece of an existing cultural district and burgeoning development in Charlotte's UptownImage Credit: Courtesy of Snøhetta

Above the glass podium, on the outside, the building pulls back to reveal western face of the historic McGlohon Theatre, seated next door, thus weaving the structure with its vicinity. Its ceramic façade, which has been drawn from the rich earthernware and artisanry of North Carolina, doubles up as a patterned screen that strategically modulates the influx of natural light coming inside the building.

The project, scheduled to begin in early 2021, will reimagine the vital role of a library with flexible interventions, a visible inside-out approach, and diversity of learning spaces.

Project Details

Name of the project: Charlotte's new Main Library
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Client: Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County
Design, Landscape and Interior Architect: Snøhetta
Architect-of-record: Clark Nexsen
Structural Engineer, Sustainability: Thornton Tomasetti
MEP Engineering: McCracken & Lopez
Civil Engineer, Landscape Architect of Record: LandDesign
Construction Management Team: Rodgers Leeper
Project Manager: Mecklenburg County Asset and Facility Management

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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