Building Materials

Located in Philadelphia at Temple University, Charles Library is one of the country’s most modern and significant new library constructions in recent history. With a design that pushes the limits of creativity, the library fulfills the architect’s intent to spur imagination and inspire excellence. Key to the building’s striking design is more than 37,000 square feet of Mesabi black granite from Coldspring®, specified for exterior cladding, windowsills, soffits, coping, and a green roof wall façade.

Coldspring worked hand-in-hand with the architecture firm Snohetta of New York to meet the design intent. The architect visited Coldspring’s Mesabi black quarry in Babbitt, Minn., before the project’s start to view numerous mockups of the material and finish options. Throughout the process, close collaboration between Coldspring and the design team ensured the material’s natural characteristics and the color range associated with its various finish options were understood.

Vertical sections of the granite in a split-face finish clad the library’s solid base and coordinate with the existing campus landscape. A total of more than 30,000 square feet of granite pieces – each featuring rustications or reveals – were successfully produced with manufacturing skill and quality.

“To keep the costs of the rusticated pieces within the owner’s budget, we evaluated our processes from the outset to develop production efficiencies,” says Duane Krueger, Regional Sales Manager for Coldspring.

Each long, slender granite piece for the building’s cladding measures approximately 6 inches wide, 4 feet long and 2.25 inches deep, presenting a challenging installation for the contractor, Dan LePore & Sons Co. of Conshohocken, Pa. Because of the stones’ small size, they rely on two points of attachment rather than the typical four. The stone’s installation on a sealant-less, caulk-less rainscreen system allows for water drainage and evaporation, preventing water from penetrating the facility’s interior while lowering the risk of wall rot.

The team at Dan LePore & Sons laid out the rainscreen’s extruded, anodized aluminum grid system at their shop before delivering it to the site. Each aluminum rail measures 30 feet long.

“Plates mounted on the back of the stone engaged with the horizontal rails of grid system to form the mounting system,” says Greg LePore of Dan LePore & Sons. “Our skilled installation team then hung each piece along the building’s complex arcs and curves.”

Mesabi black granite also provides a key design element for the building’s green roof, where it adorns the façade and coping. The dimensional, 2-foot by 2-foot granite blocks provided challenging rigging, logistics and installation at the building’s parapet.

A beautiful outcome for a challenging design was accomplished at every stage of the project by the skilled, well-coordinated team. Today, Charles Library is a centerpiece of Temple University and the city of Philadelphia where its inspiring design promotes learning, innovation and community.

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