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Snøhetta breaks ground on Charlotte library with “translucent prow”


International architecture studio Snøhetta has broken ground on a new public library for Charlotte, North Carolina, which will feature a warped rectangular facade and generous cantilever.

The new 115,000 square foot (10,680 square metre) Charlotte Mecklenburg Library will serve as the city’s main library branch, a community space and as a future connection to surrounding theatre buildings.

It will be located on the site of the previous Main Library, which was demolished in August 2023.

A library in Charlotte with a curving glass facade
Snøhetta has broken ground on a new main library in Charlotte

Located on the ridgeline of North Tyron Street on the site of former trading routes, the design pulls from the topographical history of the site as a community hub and vantage point. A largely glass facade will provide a variety of viewpoints from the five-storey building, while a spacious plaza and lobby will create gathering spaces.

“The design is organized around a couple of simple moves, which create a welcoming, dynamic, and inviting series of spaces,” Snøhetta project leader Chad Carpenter told Dezeen.

“The building’s mass is lifted up to create a largely transparent and welcoming lobby, organized around an atrium and several entrances; it is also pulled back from the street edge on Tryon for a generous civic gathering.”

A building with a curving textured facade and spacious terrace
The library is five storeys with a warped, glass facade

At street level, the building’s lobby will be framed by a copper soffit, with floor-to-ceiling windows along its length. The facade will curve forward to create space for a small cafe, which Carpenter explained acts as an invitation for passersby to come inside.

Above the lobby, bookshelves and additional seating and gathering spaces will be held in large, curving rectangular volume.

The facade of the upper volume was pushed back to reveal the surrounding buildings and to create space for two public outdoor terraces. It follows the same convex curve as the cafe below and cantilevers over the lower terrace and street in a “glowing, translucent prow”.

It will be clad in a checkered aluminium rainscreen and glass curtain wall, with strategically placed openings to optimize natural light. On its uppermost levels, the facade will feature a ribbon of floor-to-ceiling windows and doors that open onto the upper terrace.

The remaining facade, which faces neighbouring buildings, will be clad in ceramic panels as a nod to North Carolina’s history of using earthenware, according to the studio.

The interior of the building will circulate around a large geometric wooden staircase and an adjoining atrium that cuts through each floor. Both elements will vary in shape and size as they ascend.

library interior with people relaxing in a lobby
The interior will feature a wooden staircase and atrium

Renderings depict an interior palette of light wood cladding, terracotta floors and a ceiling of slender wooden beams punctuated by circular light pendants.

Sustainable features will centre around the strategic use of daylight.

“The building is designed to be efficient in heating and cooling,” said Carpenter, “With a high-performance facade and careful use of daylight throughout much of the project.”

The library will host job training and counselling, a welcome centre for new residents to the area, and a mini museum dedicated to the history of North Carolina, among other programs.

“The project seeks to accomplish two related goals,” said Carpenter. “First, to create a prominent identity and entry for the library as well as the theatres at Spirit Square. Second, it is a catalyst for growth in the North Tryon area.”

It is expected to open Spring 2026.

Snøhetta recently completed a spiralling planetarium in France and earlier this year, Dezeen reported on the Snøhetta New York office’s attempt to unionize.

The renderings are courtesy of Snøhetta.


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