Former Governor James B. Hunt, or “Jim” as he is most commonly known around the state, is N.C.’s favorite son, a beloved leader who is its champion of both education and economic progress. It only makes sense then that he serves as namesake for the James B. Hunt Library, which opened in early Jan. on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus. The library is built to reflect N.C. State’s status as a preeminent technological research university and is an architectural and technological wonder, said by some to be the most advanced library in the world.
The Hunt Library is far from your traditional college study library. Its contemporary architectural design and state-of-the-art technologies have garnered both national and international attention. The exterior of the library is a bold, iconic structure made of glass and zigzagging metal solar fins, the brainchild of innovative Norwegian design firm, Snøhetta, in collaboration with local firm Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee. Snøhetta has gained acclaim as one of the most influential modern architectural design firms of our time. Among the firm’s most renowned projects is the Oslo Opera House, the largest cultural structure to be built in Norway since the beginning of the 14th century and named World Cultural Building of the Year in 2008. The firm was also chosen to redesign NYC’s Times Square, a project scheduled to begin this summer, as well as the National September 11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero and a new addition to the San Francisco Museum of Art.
When walking through Hunt Library’s front doors, glance to the left and you’ll spy a towering wall of glass behind which lies the bookBot: a subterranean robot living among the stacks. The bookBot can whiz through the some 1.5 million books housed in the underground storage facility and on command will deliver your book of choice to the help desk upstairs within five minutes of your digital request. During my visit I happened upon a tour guide explaining the bookBot to a group of astounded prospective graduate students. I was humored when she excitedly announced that a “real human” would hand you your book once it was delivered upstairs by the Bot. I then realized the hype was true. This library is, in fact, so cutting-edge that the idea of an actual human handing your book to you is a peculiar idea.
Continue to journey up the angular, bright yellow staircase trimmed with neon lighting and into the foyer. Curving digital display screens and interactive touch-screen kiosks beckon you forward with tidbits of information and thought-provoking questions about emerging issues like wind power, organic local produce and crowd-funding. Further into the heart of Hunt Library, the colorful Rain Garden Reading Lounge hosts a 300 foot-long glass wall which offers natural light for reading and studying even on the dreariest of days, with sweeping views of Lake Raleigh and the campus’s more picturesque natural areas.
The library’s open spaces are filled with 75 different examples of modern furniture in bright colors and bold designs by some of the globe’s most recognized designers. Among the most distinctive are Herman Miller’s Coconut Chair, Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair and Mies van der Rohe’s famous Barcelona Chair.
In total, the library boasts 221,000 sq. ft. of space with the ability to host up to 1,700 students eager to learn and study. That’s bigger than a football field! The library also features a profusion of academic offices, an auditorium, a political think-tank, open study spaces, lounges and technology labs. There are private study rooms where it is completely acceptable to use the glass walls as a giant whiteboard, writing upon them with markers. There are nooks where you might hole up in a surprisingly comfortable egg chair upholstered with N.C. State red. The library also boasts its own café and upstairs gaming lab.
In case you need more of a reason to become completely infatuated with the innovative complex, the Hunt library is a friend to the environment. Constructed with recycled building materials, energy and water conservation controls, and exterior solar panels, the Hunt library serves as an example for sustainability and green design throughout the country.
The Hunt library is open to the public, so come check it out! Explore and experiment. Be wowed by the architecture, cutting-edge design and technology that James B. Hunt Library embodies. Tours are offered regularly or you can download the new mobile app for a self-guided tour.