Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Main Branch Proposal for Downtown Pittsburgh
John Herrington
4th Year Occupancy Studio 2002
Carnegie Mellon University

In the Information Age of today, the availability of both printed and online information is growing at such exponential rates how could any library manage to keep up? If Andrew Carnegie's library, built at the turn of the century, had every book published at that time how could it possibly continue to hold even a small fraction of all the books published since then? Some might say that the availability of and access to online information has done much to threaten the library system since many people no longer need the services of a library in the traditional sense. Because cyberspace can hold a virtually unlimited amount of information that is accesible to most people from home, why do people need to come to the library? In the consumer society of modern America, most people would rather buy a book from or barnes and noble rather than borrow a book for free even if they never read it or only read it once and forget about it. Such are the obstacles ahead of the modern librarian.

In order for the library to remain a relevant bastion of knowledge, its role must obviously change from how it is most commonly percieved. The library should no longer be an intimidating giant of a cultural institution, instead it should respond to consumer demands and be as inviting as possible to new users. The library must also become a muli-use institution by introducing other services to the community.

While the existing Main Branch of the Carnegie Library System will always remain a marvelous piece of architecture symbolic of Carnegie's goals to educate the masses, a new main branch is required for the library to remain both relevant and competitive in today's world. The site chosen for this new building is an existing parking lot in a prominant central location in Downtown Pittsburgh. In addition to the attractions of business, shopping, and theaters, the library will become another destination drawing people downtown.

The proposed building is essentially two buildings, one on top of the other. The lower floors house the most popular elements of the traditional library as well as other functions including a theater, internet cafe, art gallery, public meeting rooms, and a career center. These additional functions of the library are located in such a way that they may be accessible from the east lobby at times when the library itself may be closed. The distinct top five floors house the stacks and administration. These levels step back away from south to create multiple levels of urban gardens. While ample seating is provided indoors, there is also the opportunity for users to walk outside and read a book under the shade of a sycamore tree without even having to check it out. These terraces also provide excellent views down Grant Street to the Monongahela River.

The entire building is designed to take full advantage of the few windows of sunlight provided to the site by the surrounding high rise buildings. During the winter months when the sun is low in the sky, as much sunlight as possible is allowed into the building, while in the summer months the overhanging terraces shade the facades of the upper floors.

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