Heart of the Community, Center of Light & Learning

Braddock Carnegie Library Renovation

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Braddock, Pennsylvania | 49,000 SF Renovation

In many ways, the story of Braddock Carnegie Library is the story of community in the Rust Belt itself.
The Children’s Library expands its footprint on the second floor

Personally dedicated by Andrew Carnegie in 1889, Braddock Carnegie Library was not only a space for books; it also housed a swimming pool, ceramics studio, music hall and other amenities. But by 1974, as the city shed industrial jobs, the library—underfunded, roof collapsing—was slated for demolition. Fortunately, a group of residents fought to save it, and began making critical repairs. Since then the library has slowly expanded its offerings, which now include a community print shop and an expansive alternative lending library—for everything from tools to original artwork. But much of the building remains unused.

The Bathhouse Ceramics Studio expands throughout the basement with new kilns and artist studios
The Bathhouse Ceramics Studio expands into all areas of the basement.
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A library created to meet community needs must always change to serve them.

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- Braddock Carnegie Library Associate Director, Dana Bishop-Root

Respectful of the library’s history, our renovation restores the building and transforms its spaces. Improvements include reorganizing and amplifying the adult, teen, and children’s service spaces; expanding the print shop into the unused attic; restoring and updating the music hall (for use by local schools and regional theater companies); and inserting ramps and platforms into the old pool to reinterpret its function as a “book dive”—a flexible event space and café. Along with the gym and music hall, the book dive can be rented during off hours to generate income to help sustain the library. By inserting an elevator, adding amenities like air conditioning, and strategically removing walls to open up the space, the renovation makes the library more intuitively navigable, accessible and comfortable.

A more spacious arrival sequence makes the library more inviting

As Braddock fell on hard times, the library became a place where the community’s needs were met. It provided a rare, public space where all were welcome. It offered a safe place for kids. It lent folding chairs, tables, and tents for family and neighborhood celebrations. A true community center, the expansion of the Braddock Carnegie Library will enable the library to continue enhancing its services, better meeting the needs of its community and fostering an ongoing renaissance in the heart of the Rust Belt.

The restored music hall will host performances by a variety of community partners