With a gaping hole in the ground serving as its backdrop, Temple University broke ground Tuesday afternoon on its $170 million library designed by Snøhetta.
"This transformative project is going to play a major role in reshaping the personality of this campus," said Joseph Lucia, Temple's dean of libraries.
Temple first announced it had chosen Snøhetta to design its new library "for the 21st century" in 2013. Philly-based firm Stantec is partnering with them for the project.
Though originally planned to be built on Broad Street, the building's site will be in the center of Temple's campus, at Polett Walk and 13th Street.
Senior architect and project manager Nathan McRae told Curbed Philly that the design aims to be immediately welcoming to the public. "The building itself is very accepting and clear in its gesture of entrance and welcome," he said. "It is off Broad, but it will be the most inviting buildings once you do come on campus.
When the 225,000-square-foot building opens, it will become one of a handful of libraries in the world that use the automatic search and retrieval system, or what's affectionately been called the BookBot. It will be only the second time Snøhetta has incorporated the BookBot into its design—the first being Hunt Library at North Carolina State University. Temple has a collection of 2 million books, 90 percent of which will be stored away in the ASRS.
McRae says the other 10 percent of books will be on display on the fourth floor. "On the glassy fourth floor, which rises out of the base, the whole length of the building will be book stacks," he said. "It's a traditional notion of what a library is and is an important experience to be immersed around books."
In the original plans, McRae says the firm had designed for a bigger building—a more "bloated version" of the Samuel Paley library, which sits across the street from the site. The Book Bot system allowed them to design a smaller building without sacrificing student space.
If all goes according to plan, the library will open in the Fall of 2018. It will be the university's largest construction project in history and have the biggest green roof in the city of Philadelphia.