The Minneapolis Central Library is a vital civic and cultural center for downtown Minneapolis. The highly sustainable design — the result of a collaborative, public process — reinvigorates the idea of the grand urban library, making it accessible and appealing to new generations.
The library is located between two of the city’s most active thoroughfares: Nicollet Mall, the central shopping and business district, and Hennepin Avenue, the city’s main street for the performing arts. Two street grids meet at the site, inspiring the building’s design: two rectangular volumes, one aligned with each grid. The two volumes come together at the Commons, an enclosed public space that joins the two avenues.
The Commons is a six-story glass atrium that fills the building with light and activity. This space is topped by a metal “wing” that appears to hover overhead, extending beyond the building at both ends. Visible from afar, the wing is a new landmark for downtown Minneapolis. The design also accommodates the addition of a planetarium dome, which would project from the corner of the roof.
Architecturally, the two halves of the building are reminiscent of warehouse lofts, with large open floors structured by a grid of concrete columns. A strip of ochre Minnesota limestone outlines the edges of the floor plates on the building’s exterior and glass walls stretch from floor to ceiling. Windows vary in scale, depth and transparency and include surface patterns digitally translated from photographs of four Minnesota landscapes: water ripples, birch trees, snowy branches, and prairie grasses. The result is an active, lively composition.
The library’s design includes many sustainable elements. The roof of the building is planted with drought-resistant ground cover, creating an 18,500-square-foot roof garden that slows storm water runoff and reduces the urban heat island effect. An under-floor ventilation system reduces cooling costs by 20 percent, and the combination of copious daylight and energy-efficient light fixtures contributes to a building that exceeds Minnesota’s energy code requirements by 27 percent. Finally, materials with high recycled content and low volatile organic compounds were specified, and 96 percent of the demolition and construction waste was recycled.
Project Location Minneapolis MN USA
Project Type: Library
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