The Minneapolis Central Library is situated between bustling Hennepin Avenue and pedestrian-focused Nicollet Mall, a few short blocks to the Mississippi River and the gateway to downtown Minneapolis.  The public space design aims to celebrate the role of the Library within the heart of the city by claiming a zone around the building that connects and attracts people to the function of the place. The design solution responds to the scale, geometry and action of the architecture by use of straightforward, vernacular materials in inventive arrangements.


The library itself glows in downtown Minneapolis, and this is extended into the landscape by providing a consistent wash of light in the pedestrian realm through a forest-like grid of custom light columns.  The site design aims to bring an organic layer into the city and achieves this through a carefully layered slate garden wrapping the north side of the building.  To expand this theme, Birch trees emerge from the slate garden in dense patterns, mimicking the natural position of the tree in a rural Minnesota thicket. The intimate arrangement of the trees forces a vertical growth habit, providing dappled screening for the interior reading rooms. Concrete benches periodically edge the slate garden adjacent to the interior reading rooms to encourage quiet reading outdoors.  The sum of these thoughtful elements is a timeless landscape that celebrates the local materials, architecture, and culture while providing an iconic outdoor public space at the heart of the Minneapolis.  


LOCATION: Minneapolis, MN

COLLABORATORS: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, Architectural Alliance

SIZE: 1.14 acres

RECOGNITION: 2007 ASLA Award, Minnesota Chapter