New Lanes of Learning

Carnegie Mellon University, Sorrells Library Renovation

To Project Types

Pittsburgh, PA | 16,000 SF

A minimally disruptive renovation transforms an academic library into a learning hub for 21st century 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.

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I love the new modern look to the library. It’s definitely drawing in more students because not only is it visually pleasing, but also much more intuitive of students’ needs in a study environment.

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- Juliana Nam, Design Major at Carnegie Mellon University

Near the entrance, “arbors” bring down the scale of the space 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 multi-media 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 off-site and installed in just two weeks during a campus break. To accommodate these changes, a large amount of little-used books were moved off-site while 12,000 of the most frequently requested titles remain.

AIA Pittsburgh Certificate of Merit