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New Details Revealed About Snøhetta-Designed Temple Library

Architect Craig Dykers had a lot to say about the 225,000-square-foot library

At a panel discussion at Temple University last night, architect Craig Dykers of Snøhetta talked openly about the highly-anticipated Temple Library project, saying that the goal is for the building to be aspirational and provide a "sense of empowerment."

"But the first priority is for this to be a library—not a monument," Dykers said at the Building the 21st Century Library event, which was moderated by Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron.

Here are five important details we learned about the $190 million, 225,000-square-foot library, which is expected to be the most expensive building in Temple's history when it opens in 2018.

1. The library was supposed to be built on Broad Street.

Talks of the new library began in early 2008 when the university was developing its new master plan. "We wanted everything to emphasize North Broad Street, and the plan was to put an academic building on the west side of Broad," said panel member and Temple University architect Margaret Carney.

But when Dr. Neil Theobold took over as Temple's president in 2012, "He had a different idea of the function of the library for students," said Carney. That's when the proposed library site moved off Broad to within Temple's campus.

2. The public plaza will be key to bringing in the community.

By moving the library off Broad to the interior of the campus, Saffron asked what kind of message that sent to local residents. Joseph Lucia, dean of Temple University Libraries, said the addition of the prominent public event space was important in addressing that very concern.

Anne Fadullon, the city's director of planning and development, added, "I think it actually draws the community into the campus as opposed to having it on the border."

3. You'll actually want to take the stairs in this library.

At least, that's the hope. "You're going to want to take the stairs more than the elevator," said Dykers. "They're very voyeuristic—you can see everyone, they can see you. They're meant to be fun."

There are multiple stairways that are designed to encourage the students to explore the library. "As soon as you commit to using your body, you commit to the architecture of the building," said Dykers.

4. 90 percent of books will be stored away in the "book bot."

One critique that arose of the library was the use of the "Book Bot," an automated book retrieval system that will store a majority of the university's 2 million books.

Dykers said the system allowed 35 percent more space in the building for the public to use, and that 10 percent of books will be on display.

But Peter Conn, executive director of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, commented, "What we treasure is to be with the books. You're segregating people from the core material of the library."

5. That oculus though.

One of the most unusual aspects of the library will be oculus carved into the atrium's dome. The lowest ceiling height will be about 25-feet-tall; the highest point will be 45-feet-tall.

Dyker explained that the curves will help the space feel less overwhelming than a "square box."