Clemson Libraries; College of Architecture, Art and Construction

Clemson students help re-envision the Gunnin Architecture Library


Clemson students help re-envision the Gunnin Architecture Library
Clemson students help re-envision the Gunnin Architecture Library
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School of Architecture students and Clemson Libraries have teamed up to reimagine the Gunnin Architecture Library’s interior design. Ann Holderfield, director of the Gunnin Architecture Library, and Tim Brown, associate professor in architecture, led a design charrette with students in an effort to ensure that the library meets the needs of all students in the College of Architecture, Art and Construction.

Hired during the Fall 2023 semester, Holderfield felt that there was untapped potential in the Gunnin Architecture Library’s space. Having led another library through a space planning process at a previous job, Holderfield was excited when Brown reached out about the possibility of holding a design charrette to assist the library in meeting its full potential.

“Being a faculty member who lived in the Gunnin as an undergraduate long ago, I was taken aback by the enormous unrealized potential of a great space,” Brown explained. “So, I asked, ‘Why can’t we make it better?’”

Re-envisioning and student needs

Holderfield’s main goal for the re-envisioning was to heighten students’ library experience. She felt that it is the responsibility of the library for the College of Architecture, Art and Construction to showcase good, functional, and inspirational designs and spaces.

“We need to make sure that we are a place where everyone can come to do quiet study, to focus, to be inspired, to work with each other, to receive research help and to use our resources,” Holderfield explained. “We have amazing furniture in our library, but we could do with some updating of the space, and I think it would be very exciting to have a space that reflects the vision and creativity of the students.”

For Brown, the hope of this re-envisioning session was to create an enhanced physical environment in Gunnin where you can see the direct impact that students had in shaping the space.

“The first and best thing about the library that we want to bring out and enhance is the collection itself,” said Brown. “Architecture is a field for which the very best documentation is still physical, not digital, and found in books and print journals. Secondly, we want to use the amount of natural light that is available in the library space; looking at great books benefits enormously from great natural light. Thirdly, we want to enhance the courtyard because — courtyard.”

Hosting the charrette

The library hosted the design charrette on January 20, 2024, where students, library staff and Brown worked together to re-envision the library’s potential and evaluate student needs.

During the charrette, Holderfield led the students on a tour of the library, where she helped them understand how the library employees use the space.

“I really appreciated how thoughtful the students were,” Holderfield said. “They asked me so many questions in the library tour about how we — the library employees — used the space.”

According to Holderfield, the students thought about the use of the library not just from a student perspective but also incorporated the needs of the library employees into their feedback and design ideas.

It was also helpful for Holderfield to hear what the students “disliked.” She explained that the students who attended the charrette felt that the library’s wayfinding needed work.

“Students don’t seem to know where to go for different needs or even that there is a downstairs,” said Holderfield.

During the charrette, students also suggested changes that could be made or places already incorporated into Lee Hall that the library could utilize. Specifically, students mentioned incorporating the courtyard that the library looks out on into the library space.

“Everyone wants to incorporate the courtyard into the library,” explained Holderfield. “I think that would be wonderful!”

Next steps

The work to re-envision the library has just started. According to Brown, a team of students and faculty will take the ideas presented in the charrette and craft them into a viable plan for renovating the library.

Holderfield explained that she’d like to see a package from the student and faculty design team that encompasses several different layers.

“I’d like to have a package in a few months for us to consider that encompasses several layers of short-term and long-term changes that will heighten the student experience and reinforce our value to the college.” Holderfield said.

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