A New Chapter: Heatherwick Studio’s Revolutionary Library Design

Heatherwick Studio has unveiled its first public library design. Conceived for Howard County Libraries in Maryland, USA, the building will reflect the changed role of the library and serve a community with a rich heritage of fostering diversity and promoting wellbeing in the city.


The new library will sit at the heart of Columbia, a planned community consistently voted as one of the best places to live in the USA. Working with Howard Hughes Company and the Howard County Library team, the studio has designed the building to reflect the changed role libraries play in our lives. Going beyond a simple repository of knowledge and book-lending services, the new space will act as a centre for the community and will become Columbia’s hub for events, learning and lending of objects of use, such as art or tools.

Stuart Wood, Partner and Group Leader at the studio, says: “Columbia has always been driven by a socially radical vision. This legacy inspired us to evolve the traditional library beyond books and into a new type of community centre for broader learning and social exchange. A walkable, planted building that emerges from the lakeside landscape will house an amphitheatre for events, play areas and light-filled rooms designed for working and learning anything from cooking to IT. This will be the community centre everyone in Howard County deserves.”

Inspired by the vision of James Rouse, the founder of the community who saw “cities as gardens for the growing of people”, the building will be tightly integrated into the neighbourhood both through its facilities and its location. Set on the city’s main promenade and with panoramic views of Lake Kittamaqundi, the library is designed to host educational and cultural programmes. Its five storeys will accommodate working spaces and play areas as well as a makers’ lab, teaching kitchen and a cafe.

The building itself appears as if lifting from the surrounding landscape, with cascading planted staircases weaving across the facade to reveal the open, double-storey atrium where the county plans to host a programme of public events. Honouring the Rousian vision of respect for nature for the enjoyment and recreation of the city’s residents, the building’s many terraces will be richly planted with native plant species. The facade will seamlessly join with the surrounding public park and lakefront, thus becoming an integral part of the community’s natural gathering and relaxation place.

The library will serve all county residents and as well as visitors from across the US. Construction is expected to start in late 2024, with the library opening to the public in 2027.

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