flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

Atlanta’s Central Library completes its $50 million renovation

billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial

Atlanta’s Central Library completes its $50 million renovation

Cooper Carry in association with Vines Architecture designed the project.

By David Malone, Managing Editor | November 22, 2021
Photos: Jonathan Hillyer

Forty years after its original opening in 1980, Atlanta’s Central Library has reopened following a $50 million renovation project designed by Cooper Carry in association with Vines Architecture. The build team devised a plan to rehabilitate the eight-story building into a place that balances the original brutalist design with modernizing the space to better appeal to Atlanta’s next generation of library goers.

The team envisioned a design strategy to utilize technology; introduce additional windows; reallocate space; improve way finding; replace mechanical systems for greater comfort, efficiency, and sustainability; and activate the exterior plaza to create a more transparent, safe, accessible, and functional building from the outside in.

Atlanta Central Library interior stair

Other key considerations included creating more natural light, flexibility to support changing programs, and improved street-level engagement. The introduction of windows to existing recessed planes significantly improved daylight access, helping to create a brighter interior and a more welcoming presence.

A challenge of the library’s interior was that it was underutilized and difficult to navigate, leaving many of the original design signatures hiding in plain sight. The design team unearthed and put these elements on display, including a distinct sculptural staircase and waffle slab ceiling and skylights that occupy the center of the building by relocating the original central service elevator that was in the way. Opening up the core of the building had the effect of bringing in natural light to the atrium while serving as a smoke exhaust pathway, which was a necessary mechanical change to the building's life safety systems.

AtlantaCentralLibrary exterior

Visitors will discover the addition of comfortable gathering hubs that encourage library guests to move outside the confines of the traditional library on the previously underutilized fifth floor outdoor terrace. In the future, flex spaces like the terrace and the adjacent auditorium with telescoping seating and a large glass operable door could be used as an income-generating venue for events.

AtlantaCentralLibrary interior children's section

The library’s revamped exterior plaza will be activated with more lighting, video information displays, and spaces to meet and gather. The goal is to extend the library’s footprint into the urban fabric and draw outsiders in.

The design team worked with Fulton County Library System, in addition to design build contractors Winter-Johnson with Moody Nolan.

AtlantaCentralLibrary auditorium

AtlantaCentralLibrary interior space

AtlantaCentralLibrary central stair and lobby


Related Stories

Giants 400 | Nov 19, 2021

2021 Cultural Facilities Giants: Top architecture, engineering, and construction firms in the U.S. cultural facilities sector

Gensler, AECOM, Buro Happold, and Arup top BD+C's rankings of the nation's largest cultural facilities sector architecture, engineering, and construction firms, as reported in the 2021 Giants 400 Report.

Libraries | Sep 22, 2021

Three libraries in California were built in less than two years under a P3 contract

A nonprofit with tax advantages funded the project.

Giants 400 | Aug 30, 2021

2021 Giants 400 Report: Ranking the largest architecture, engineering, and construction firms in the U.S.

The 2021 Giants 400 Report includes more than 130 rankings across 25 building sectors and specialty categories.

Libraries | Aug 26, 2021

Fort Worth’s first public library for children opens

KAI designed the project.

Resiliency | Aug 19, 2021

White paper outlines cost-effective flood protection approaches for building owners

A new white paper from Walter P Moore offers an in-depth review of the flood protection process and proven approaches.

Libraries | Aug 17, 2021

ABA creates space for the Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library

ABA partnered with Shawmut Design & Construction on the project.

Libraries | Aug 10, 2021

Lakeside Branch Library breaks ground

HED and PCL Construction are designing and building the project.

Libraries | Jul 9, 2021

Smith College’s newly renovated Neilson Library honors its past as it moves into the future

Adding more space for the library's Special Collections was a design imperative.

Resiliency | Jun 24, 2021

Oceanographer John Englander talks resiliency and buildings [new on HorizonTV]

New on HorizonTV, oceanographer John Englander discusses his latest book, which warns that, regardless of resilience efforts, sea levels will rise by meters in the coming decades. Adaptation, he says, is the key to future building design and construction.

AEC Tech | May 24, 2021

Digital twin’s value propositions for the built environment, explained

Ernst & Young’s white paper makes its cases for the technology’s myriad benefits.

boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021


Magazine Subscription

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.


Follow BD+C: