Hunt Library, NCSU’s Most Exceptional Building

Hunt Library's main façade

photography by: Omri Westmark

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With a staggering 36,000 students and more than 9,000 staff members, North Carolina State University is by far the largest academic institution across both Carolinas, encompassing over 2,000 acres of research and educational facilities, parks and roads. Nestled in the Centennial Campus, the Hunt Library is not only the centerpiece of NCSU's fastest growing campus, but also a contemporary architectural masterpiece, a showcase of technology, design and vibrant social life.

Designed by the world-renowned Norwegian architecture firm of Snøhetta, the Hunt Library is a conspicuous landmark in a campus that is already saturated with numerous eye-catching architectural gems. A gesture to the campus’ College of Textiles, the exceptional façade is inspired by the 18th century looms, reflected by the dozens of vertical lines across the building, as if they were a woven fabric, created by the then breakthrough technology.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Admission to the library is free, yet after 10PM entails a student card. As you enter the building, you’ll come across the Rain Garden Reading Lounge, the library’s most iconic and single largest space.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Suffice to say that the lounge’s most prominent feature is its glass screen wall that also serves as the building’s iconic façade. The fritted glass is partly shaded by a string of aluminum panels, creating a space that is flooded with daylight, yet at the same time is also spared from the dazzling sunshine and overheating, the latter of which resonates with the university’s proclaimed goal of promoting sustainability.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Besides the obvious appeal of its glassy wall, the hall is chockfull of quaint furniture items, including decorative convoluted bookshelves and a hodgepodge of colorful armchairs, making it a pleasant place to spend time at, even if you aren’t a laptop armed student.

photography by: Omri Westmark


While the library is immensely praised for its architectural design, perhaps its true source of inspiration is the cutting-edge technology that is well-integrated into the building.

 

Located at the heart of the edifice is the unmatched, yet largely invisible, centerpiece of the library, the bookBot. This automated system consists of more than 18,000 bins with a total capacity of 2 million books, each of which has a barcode that is scanned by a robot, that in turn delivers the item upon an online request.

photography by: Seannator/ Wikimedia Commons


The bins are arranged in 15-meter-tall rows, making it possible to store books in one ninth of the space required by a traditional library, and so, a large portion of the building that would otherwise be utilized for book storage was instead converted to private classrooms, auditoriums, silent studying rooms and a host of other spaces that make this library far more interesting and spacious.

 

If you wish to witness this technological marvel, a window on the 1st floor, known as the Robot Alley, provides a glimpse of the bookBot machinery.

photography by: Rhododendrites/ Wikimedia Commons


Named after North Carolina’s former governor, Jim Hunt, the library has over 80 different types of furniture, including a bespoke chair known as the Hunt Chair, designed specifically for the library by the Moser furniture company. The largest concentration of Hunt Chairs throughout the building can be found in the quiet reading room on the second floor’s southern side (Picture below).

photography by: Omri Westmark


Besides its rare custom-made chairs, the quiet reading room also has a segment facing the glass screen wall, where one can gaze into the breathtaking views of Lake Raleigh and its surrounding forest.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The mentioned above lounge is far from being the only window-side sitting corner across the building, as virtually almost every inch of space along the light-rich façade is littered with armchairs and coffee tables.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Facing some of those mini-lounges are private classrooms, where students often study, debate and exchange ideas, and thanks to their glassy transparent doors, those interactions can be witnessed by passersby.

photography by: Omri Westmark


A large yellow staircase connects the second and third floors. According to the architects, its conspicuous color meant to provide orientation for the building’s users who make their way throughout the complex. While it’s up for individuals to determine whether this banana-hued escalier fulfils its designated role, it’s a definitely a comfy place to hang around and sip a pumpkin spice latte as busy students vertically commute.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The curvy gallery floor above the aforementioned Rain Garden Reading Lounge offers an intriguing perspective over the latter, as the rectangular furniture items and the giant pixelated carpet seem as if they were part of a large-scale Tetris game.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Among the many unusual facilities offered by the library are a makerspace, where 3d printers and scanners are used, a game lab, a state-of-the-art space where students can create their own digital games, as well as several large visualization walls, where both videos and games can be displayed upon, often as a showcase of the faculty’s students.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Amid the fourth floor’s busy and densely packed studying cubicles is a string of orange chairs facing Lake Raleigh and its adjacent woodland. Hilariously, it is this place, surrounded by dozens of hectic student groups, where one can practice meditation in front of the verdant landscape.

photography by: Omri Westmark


As previously mentioned, the library’s furniture collection is immense, evidently, even folding beach chairs are given an honorable place, offering a respite for overworked students who wish to bask under the North Carolinian sun, if it chooses to spring up.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Situated on the fifth floor, at the campus’ highest point of elevation, the Skyline Reading Room is a quiet elongated space for studying and working, accompanied by charming views of NSCU’s greenery and incessant supply of sunlight.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Just across the glass screen wall is the library’s terrace, where students often take break and socialize between studying sessions.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Even if you aren’t a diligent student, you can still enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the campus and the nearby Lake Raleigh.

photography by: Omri Westmark


If you gaze eastwards, you’ll come across a dense forest and the reddish student dormitories.

photography by: Omri Westmark


With more than 30 percent of its structure and content made of recycled materials, the Hunt Library is deemed as one of Raleigh’s most environmentally friendly buildings. A further testament for the building’s sustainability is its green roof, that despite its uninspiring appearance was one of the reasons the library received a local municipal award for green design.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Intriguingly, as part of the architects’ philosophy, the building is well integrated into its environment, taking into account the surrounding topographic layout. As a result, the library bridges the elevation gap between its eastern and western sides, while an outdoor staircase provides pedestrians with an access to both parts.

photography by: Omri Westmark


While both the library’s western and eastern elongated façades resemble each other by being covered with a medley of iconic aluminum panels, the southern and northern shorter façades are comprised almost entirely of a large and uninterrupted single screen wall.

photography by: Omri Westmark


If you wish to further explore the building virtually, the NSCU official website offers virtual 360° tours.

photography by: Omri Westmark