Minneapolis Central Library

Since 1885, the Minneapolis Public Library, with the fourth largest metropolitan collection in the country, has changed the lives of millions of people by providing ready access to knowledge and information and serving as a source of community pride and economic stimulation. The new, recently-completed Central Library, the main branch of the library system, has become a vital civic landmark and cultural center for the City and the region. Replacing an outdated facility, the new library building houses the state’s largest public library collection of printed and electronic media.

The library serves as a vital community resource, providing extensive research and educational access as well as enlightening and enriching programs to the public. With over 353,000 ft2 of floor space, an additional 140,000 ft2 of underground parking and easy access to public transportation, the building is a welcoming and accessible hub for learning and exchange. The majority of the new library’s collection is on open shelves, putting nearly 100% of materials — compared with the previous 15% — at users’ fingertips. Doubling the number of computers has allowed more people access to technology.

The new Minneapolis Central Library acts as a gateway and anchor at the north end of the City’s downtown mall. The exterior of the new building was designed to enhance the urban character of the City and to attract visitors from all directions. The library block is shaped by the juncture of two major street grids: the business district to the South, and the arts district to the West. The shifting urban geometry of the site carries through into the public space of the building, informing the shape of the 5-story, glass-enclosed Galleria. Nestled between these two major street grids, the Galleria becomes the “living room” for the City.

Above the Galleria floats a wing-like, steel-truss roof that spans over the building’s two main entrances. This wing-like shape represents the library’s larger presence within the downtown community. The future planetarium dome on the northwest corner will shape the urban character of the building and provides a highly-visible urban marker. The two levels of below-grade parking and three future skyway connections tie the project into the city’s pedestrian and vehicular patterns.

Local, buff-colored Minnesota limestone bands run horizontally between the glass walls that make up the majority of the building’s skin. Ceramic fritted patterns representing the region’s natural landscape, such as water, snow, trees and prairie grass, infuse life into the glass walls of the building and contribute much to the identity of this great public building.

The Minneapolis Central Library has also been designed to be environmentally sustainable. An 18,560 ft2 green roof was incorporated to enhance storm water management practices and reduce the urban heat island effect. The library is 27% more energy efficient than required by the energy code, and is provided with excellent daylighting features, which promote a healthy building environment. Glazing on the glass walls minimizes solar gain on the east, west and south facades, while 96% of the previous existing library was recycled as was construction waste whenever possible.


Project Type


Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

Related links


  • Architectural Alliance, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
  • Jeff Goldberg, Esto Photographics