The Incredible Central Library Renovation in 95 Photos

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DSC_0195Every once in awhile an amazing transformation occurs. Our city molts and sheds its skin constantly revealing something new and utterly exciting. The recent $70M renovation of the Central Library, the crowned jewel of our amazing library system, is nothing short of stunning. This library has been etched into my urban experience. I have memories of the old library which was magnificent, if not sometimes a little drab in feel. 

The renovation is an inspiration of what good design and execution can bring. The old touches have been meticulously restored. I am so happy it still feels like the old library. However, the amazing use of modern lighting and new arrangements are nothing short of perfect. 

The new, mod seating is comfortable and sleek, yet private. The new atrium is sharp, elegant, bright and open. This place utterly blew me away today. Cannon Design should be praised to the high heavens. The mix of old and new was pulled off like no other I have seen.

Cass Gilbert designed the Central Library at 1301 Olive Street in the Downtown West neighborhood. The masterpiece was built in 1912 and 100 years later, I can confidently say has become a shining new and creative example of how our city and its amazing architecture can be cutting edge and elegant for another 100 years. 

I am going to shut up and share some photos I took today, the day of the Grand Re-opening. If you are a St. Louisan, today you should be proud and optimistic of our future. If this gem can rise from the patina to become an utterly amazing, bright place…so can the rest of the city. 

Go visit this new space and let me know what YOU think.

Today was a dreary, rainy winter day…but the old 1912 beauty was still shining:

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The turtle footed lights, the flag pole, the metal doors, the lion fountains are all scrubbed and functioning. The fountains have water flowing for the first time in over 50 years:

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The new Locust Street entrance across from Lucas Park is probably my favorite. The water features are calming and the structure itself is set apart from the Gilbert building and is covered in literary entries.

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The stuff we all know and love is still there…but the lighting that was employed brighten up some of the darker corners of the old building. New signage, artwork and photography was added to train the eye to new parts of the library.

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The new seating is mod and perfectly placed for privacy and utility:

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The new atrium and modern touches are sharp and elegant:

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There is a new theatre as well:

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I love it here. I love St. Louis. This place is a work of art, go experience a St. Louis treasure:

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This post initially appeared on Mark's excellent St. Louis City Talk blog. He is the author of the 79 neighborhood guides appearing on nextSTL and his site.

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  • T-Leb

    Great pictures!

  • Cortez

    Thank you so much!

  • kuan

    Amazing

  • backprop

    With all the deserved accolades given to the library, I do want to make mention of your comment on modern lighting. While there is a lot of flash with LED bookshelves and so forth, I was just a little bit disheartened to see a significant amount of incandescent lighting and older, less efficient fluorescent lighting (T-12) in the new library. You would not notice it unless you looked straight up at spotlights or peeked into coves, but once I noticed a few I began looking everywhere, and there’s a lot. I wish they would have really embraced efficiency with such a large project.

  • Robert G

    Stunning. Absolutely stunning! St. Louis, you did it right. You have renovated a venerable, beautiful, century-old building that will continue to serve you as a library for a long time to come. I live in Des Moines, Iowa, where we recently disposed of our early 20th century Neo-Classical library in favor of a soulless, amoeba-like, two-story nothing of a building completely clad in copper windows that keep breaking, and furnished with plain metal shelves that you’d find in a warehouse or storeroom. While the former library was beautifully renovated and now shines as the World Food Prize headquarters, Des Moines no longer owns this piece of our heritage, built when we had visions of becoming a progressive city. We were told it couldn’t be economically renovated to accommodate modern electronic media requirements, even though its current owners seem to have come up with a way to do that. So much for preserving our heritage. The way you did that is much better.