January 25, 2022

An In-Depth Look at Temple University’s Charles Library (From a Civil Engineering Perspective)

From Civil Engineering:

The new Charles Library on the campus of Philadelphia’s Temple University is a departure from the traditional college library and its rows of bookshelves, low ceilings, and sometimes dark and cramped spaces. What was imagined for the Charles Library was quite the opposite: a building that incorporates open volumes, lots of light, and grand staircases, among other unique design features—including virtual-reality rooms and a workshop with 3D printers.

Source: Charles Library/Temple University

The new building comprises approximately 220,000 sq ft of usable space and an additional 40,000 sq ft of green roof. The overall building is approximately 420 ft long, 160 ft wide, and 70 ft tall with four stories aboveground. Its features are well balanced, owing in part to the innovative structural systems supporting the building. Much of the interior space is fluidly shaped, with multistory openings that visually interconnect and enable visitors to easily navigate the library. The center of the library revolves around a vast three-story atrium that has a large oculus that opens to the fourth story. Monumental staircases lead to the fourth floor, where the open-perusal bookshelves are located.


The green roof, one of the largest in Pennsylvania, was designed with sustainability in mind, and it also minimizes stormwater runoff. Additionally, large water-retaining basins are depressed below the building’s two primary entrances. These efforts to lessen the building’s environmental impact are part of the university’s plan to attain a gold-level certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.


Source: Charles Library/Temple University

From the outset of the concept design, the design team pushed boundaries. The design architect, Snøhetta, realized early on that several structural systems would need to be unconventional. LERA, a firm known for its history of designing complex cultural buildings using cutting-edge structural systems, was brought on to serve as the structural engineer. The design team proposed two concepts: a building with a large gateway arch that spanned 200 ft and a building with a 75 ft cantilever at the fourth floor. Structural schemes were developed for each option. The gateway option included a ribbed structure, and the latter option included one-story-tall cantilevered trusses. While the team anticipated that the realities of the university’s budget would result in a simplified version of one of the concepts, the architect pursued a design that effectively combined both options. That is the design today—albeit with scaled-down spans from the original concepts.

Direct to Full Text Article (approx. 3470 words)

See Also: Library Design: “New Library is Temple’s Most Compelling Work of Architecture in Decades” (September 19, 2019)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.