Renewal Gets Real at Library Next Site

If you’ve passed through central campus in recent weeks, you may have noticed a large crane has taken up residence in front of the Georgia Tech Library.

The Library renewal project has been years in the making, but construction has finally heated up in the area and work is becoming visible to all of campus. The Library recently hosted a town hall to share updates with the campus community on progress and details of programming and design inside the space.

Representatives from the design teams as well as Library staff provided updates and answered audience questions. A live-stream of the presentation is archived at c.gatech.edu/librarytownhall

The Library also recently took drone footage of the area in its current state. See aerial views of the construction at: c.gatech.edu/librarydrone

Linda Daniels, architect in Capital Planning and Space Management, opened the presentation with a historical look at libraries at Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech’s first library was a collection of books on a professor’s shelf in Tech Tower. Early drawings of Tech Tower call the library area a “drawing studio,” as that was its main purpose prior to housing books.

The Carnegie Building was Tech’s first library building, built in 1907. It was replaced by Price Gilbert in the 1960s and Crosland Tower in 1968. 

When planning for a replacement for the Carnegie Library, which had outgrown its capacity by the 1940s, it was proposed to demolish Tech Tower and put a new library on its site. That plan was ultimately revised, but the site was still chosen to make the library central, easily accessible, and able to expand.

Brian Tanner of Praxis 3, the Atlanta-based part of the architecture team, gave an overview of building design and features. 

Overall, the interior design is driven by the need to host people instead of books.  

Tanner noted that some of the most visible change will happen at the existing ground level, which will now have a grove on the side facing Fourth Street. The goal in that area is to create more connection between the two Library buildings. 

The first and second levels will resemble their existing state in that the large reading room with overlooking balconies will remain. The third floor will house more digital space and labs for audio, video, computing, and visualization. The fourth floor, and highest floor in the Price Gilbert building, will also keep its balconies overlooking the main reading room. The fifth floor will host most of the faculty and staff space in the building. 

As is the case now, the Library is designed to get quieter as floors ascend. The sixth floor will have an emphasis on graduate students.

“Clough Commons is primarily an undergraduate-based facility connected to the Library complex,” Tanner said. “This floor is more oriented toward graduate students. It’s something the Library has really wanted to deliver.” 

The seventh floor will offer skyline views from the north side, a reading room, meeting space, and roof terraces on either end. Spaces on this floor will mainly be dedicated to reading and quiet study, but can also be used for special events. 

Catherine Murray-Rust, vice provost for learning excellence and dean of Libraries, emphasized the need to preserve quiet space in the facility. 

“There’s a real need for people to work alone, together — to be engaged in academics, in a room full of people who are doing similar things, but to have the opportunity for quiet,” she said. 

Exteriors

The area beneath the bridge connecting the two Library structures will be opened up to ease congestion. The main entrance of the complex will move to the Fourth Street side near the Hinman Research Building. The rotunda at the existing main entrance will be removed to harken back to the original architecture of the building. 

A space on the east side of the new main entrance is called the “screened porch.” Tanner likened it to the exterior space at Dancing Goats at Ponce City Market, a coffee shop that features an outdoor seating area with partial glass enclosure. 

Both the north and south facades of the Tower will be opened up with glass, but because the south façade of the building is exposed to more harmful rays of sun, the design incorporates sun shades that protect the exterior and reflect daylight into the space.

Interiors

A new set of stairs will take visitors from the entrance at ground level to the existing plaza level. The design evokes the riser stairs that ascend from the first to second floor of Clough Commons.

Though many of the Library’s books have already been transported to the Library Service Center, the collection remaining will now be housed on shelves that will be turned 90 degrees from the way they currently face, showcasing the books and providing easier access.

A space on the second floor will offer a conference center space for events that are scholarship-based but not necessarily tied to a specific discipline, such as lectures, seminars, poster session displays, or dissertation defenses.

“The space is intended to celebrate academics and provide something we don’t think is available elsewhere on campus without charging rent,” Murray-Rust said. The space will be equipped with audiovisual and livestreaming equipment and integrated into existing Library resources to provide archiving.  

Seating capacity in the entire complex will increase from an existing 1,250 to 2,360.

“We’re nearly doubling the number of people that can use the library, at the same time reducing the energy use by 60 percent,” said Tanner. “It’s a pretty remarkable story for energy efficiency.”

The new Library will also have two instructional spaces available for campus use, as well as additional elevators, exit stairs on each end, inclusive restrooms, and a locker room with shower. 

Timeline

Phase one of construction is underway, which is expected to conclude in fall 2018. At that point, the Tower portion of the Library will reopen, and the Price Gilbert building will close for construction through early 2020. The hope is to use the winter break of 2018 to reoccupy the Tower and close Price Gilbert.

Given that Price Gilbert provides connectivity for campus between Clough Commons and the Library complex, the second phase of construction will likely cause more inconvenience to campus. The main construction entrance is anticipated to remain on Fourth Street to minimize that part of the impact to the campus community. 

Learn more about the full scope of the project at librarynext.gatech.edu.

Related Media

Click on image(s) to view larger version(s)

  • Library Rendering: Existing Main Entrance

  • Library Rendering: Bobby Dodd Way

  • Library Rendering: Price Gilbert Reading Room

  • Library Rendering: Updated Entry

  • Library Rendering: Atrium

  • Library Rendering: Reading Room