James B. Hunt Jr. Library
by Snøhetta


Architecture firm Snøhetta has completed a library at North Carolina State University that features a robotic book retrieval system and a 3D printing workshop (+ slideshow).

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta

Named after a former North Carolina Governor, the James B. Hunt Jr. Library is a four-storey building at North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta

The robotic bookBot system controls over two million of the library's books, labeling them with barcodes and storing them in a space far smaller than traditional library shelving. To retrieve a book, students and library users simply browse an online catalogue and select the volumes they want the system to pick out for them from the vast numbers of subterranean bins in which they're kept.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta

The 3D printing workshop is positioned within a digital production suite that also accommodates a digital games research lab and a visualisation studio. Other facilities include an auditorium and offices for the Institute for Emerging Issues, a political thinktank led by James Hunt.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta

Snøhetta designed the library as a mixture of traditional reading rooms and brightly-coloured group study spaces, which include a double-height atrium and a series of indoor balconies.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta

Aluminium panels clad the exterior and create a fixed system of louvres, providing solar shading for expansive areas of glazing that let natural light pass right through the building.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta

Snøhetta was first established in Oslo but has since opened a second studio in New York. The firm is best-known for designing the Opera House Oslo, but is also working on an extension to double the size of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). See more architecture by Snøhetta.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta

Other libraries completed recently include a music library at Folkwang University of the Arts in Germany and a public library inside a glass pyramid in the Netherlands. See more libraries on Dezeen.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta

Photography is by Mark Herboth.

Here's a statement from Snøhetta:

Official Opening of SNØHETTA's James B. Hunt Jr. Library

On April 3, 2013, North Carolina State University will officially dedicate the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, making it Snøhetta's most recently completed project in North America.

Snøhetta, the internationally acclaimed architecture and landscape design practice, worked closely with NCSU Libraries to set a new benchmark for technologically-sophisticated collaborative learning spaces with the design of the new Hunt Library. It serves both as NC State's second main library and the intellectual and social heart of the university's Centennial Campus plan. The Hunt Library also houses the Institute for Emerging Issues, a political think tank led by former North Carolina Governor James Hunt, academic offices and an auditorium. It is designed to be a decisive competitive edge for the university by democratizing access to the technologies driving our economy.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta


Snøhetta's Hunt Library design balances the understood pre-existing needs with the University's emerging needs to create a forward-thinking learning environment. While clearly a contemporary structure within a traditional context of the NCSU campus, the Hunt Library provides a positive platform for influencing its surroundings. Both technical and programmatic innovations are celebrated as part of the learning experience and provide a versatile and stimulating environment for students.

Generous open spaces connect all floors of the library and open stairs emphasise an interactive and social environment alongside more focused study areas. A wide variety of study and learning environments, and technology-focused experimental labs break the now ubiquitous model of the learning commons. "Disruptive" learning spaces with colourful, dynamic furnishings exist beside more traditional study rooms. The design recognises the power of chance encounters and celebrates the role of physical space in the intellectual stimulation of its users.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta

The new LEED Silver (pending) project provides spaces awash with natural light, expansive views of the nearby lake and outdoor break and seating areas. The building's façade of fritted glass and a fixed external aluminum shading system help diminish heat gain while maximising views and ambient natural light. Robust materials form the interior spaces and unique, brightly-stained wooden stairs help library users orient themselves throughout the building. Ceiling-mounted active chilled beams and radiant panels provide heating and cooling for the interior spaces.

Snøhetta's integrated architecture and landscape architecture practice also designed the Hunt Library's surrounding landscape. The design creates a fluid transition between the masterplanned landscape to the Hunt Library's north with the natural environment of Lake Raleigh to the south, and links the library to the western edge of NCSU's Centennial Campus. Snohetta's plan breaks down the larger masterplan into individual diverse experiences, creates outdoor learning environments and teaching spaces for NCSU students, and incorporates rain gardens and green roofs into the building's infrastructure for storm water management.

James B Hunt Jr Library by Snohetta


The integration of state-of-the-art library technology is highly visible in the building's design. The Hunt Library's 5-storey robotic bookBot automated retrieval system is capable of holding two million volumes in 1/9 the space of conventional shelving. The system is supported by Virtual Browse, a user-friendly browsing software which enhances the traditional pleasure of browsing a collection by allowing users to see a virtual shelf of materials classified near the resources found by their initial search. The bookBot effectively reduced the total area of the building by 200,000 GSF, allowing more space for collaborative learning environments and technology.

In addition to the bookBot, innovative building features give faculty and students hands-on experience with the large-scale visualisation tools. The Game Lab supports NC State's Digital Games Research Center by providing an experimental commons to explore collaborative game design and the role of gaming in education. The library's Teaching and Visualisation Lab, the Creativity Studio, a 3D printing workshop and extensive digital media production facilities enable faculty and students with rapid prototyping, modeling, and visualisation capabilities. State-of-the-art videoconferencing and telepresence technologies allow collaboration with colleagues across the state and around the world. ROTC students are even able to practice commanding a submarine in a simulation environment developed in partnership with the Navy as a tool to better train cadets.

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Library Collection capacity (# of volumes): 2 million +
Total Square footages: Gross - 221,122, Net - 149,226

  • That looks great! The statement is very insightful, together with the images it helps communicate their design solutions: “the design recognises the power of chance encounters and celebrates the role of physical space in the intellectual stimulation of its users.”

    Yes, I’ve felt that the brain works quite differently while studying at the library compared to at home.

  • sor perdida

    It’s a vast space filled out with some remarkable furniture, for sure. I wish the interiors would have conveyed more of the open intimacy related to a contemporary university library, without resorting to a gratuitously ‘cool’ vocabulary. The zigzagged fenestration on the outside alludes to a sloped interior space that doesn’t happen, for instance.

  • marco

    It seems surprisingly plastic-y from the inside; the walls, the ceilings even the furniture does not seem to be made to last.

  • Karen Kinney

    By the way, automated retrieval systems have been around for at least a decade, if not longer.

  • gudrun gundula

    So heavy. No?