Facility Focus (Libraries / Learning Commons)

Carnegie Mellon University: Sorrell's Engineering & Science Library Renovation

Carnegie Mellon University 

PHOTOS © ED MASSERY

A minimally disruptive renovation has transformed the Sorrell’s Engineering & Science Library at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh into a learning hub for 21stcentury students.

Three prefabricated bamboo elements are at the heart of this renovation. Designed by GBBN and fabricated locally by two Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture alums, these striking millwork pieces bring warmth to a concrete Brutalist building and help turn it into a place for active learning. Because the space now offers students a wide variety of ways to study and learn, they’re empowered to choose the zone that best suits their project needs and study style.

Near the entrance of the 16,000-square-foot space, “arbors” bring down the scale and provide collaborative zones that feel sheltered within an active, social area. A “portal” in the middle separates the active space near the entry and circulation desk from quiet and focused work zones toward the back. The portal also offers students a range of alternative seating on and around its platform. A multimedia collaborative “den” at the back of the library lets larger groups work without disrupting others.

Additionally, prefabricated glass and metal modular work rooms were added to the space. They keep students visually connected to the rest of the library but provide acoustic privacy for group projects.

All four elements were fabricated offsite and installed in just two weeks during a campus break. To accommodate these changes, a large number of little-used books were moved off-site while 12,000 of the most frequently requested titles remain.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of College Planning & Management.

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