The 6 most beautiful new libraries in the US

Pico Branch Library, designed by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc., Santa Monica, California.

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Pico Branch Library, designed by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc., Santa Monica, California.
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Courtesy of the AIA

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Library Association (ALA) have announced their picks for the best new libraries and library renovations of 2018.

In addition to their stunning appearances, the libraries were recognized for their environmentally-friendly and community-oriented designs.

While projects could be located anywhere in the world, only architects licensed in the US could enter the competition. The projects also needed to be completed within the last five years.

This year’s winning libraries are below:


Opened in 1965, the Tulsa Library in Oklahoma was renovated to include new cast stone panels, interiors, and refurbished public art.

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Tulsa City-County Central Library, renovated by MSR Design, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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Lara Swimmer

Up to 140 people can congregate inside its new meeting spaces.

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Tulsa City-County Central Library, renovated by MSR Design, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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Lara Swimmer

Despite the addition of a 88,000-square foot garage, the amount of impermeable surfaces overall were reduced, alleviating stormwater runoff. The plaza, once deserted, now features plenty of space for outdoor reading.

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Tulsa City-County Central Library, renovated by MSR Design, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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Chris Davis

The architects behind the Austin Central Library won for their “desire to be good stewards of water resources in an area of Texas that regularly experiences drought,” the AIA jury said.

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Austin Central Library, designed by Lake Flato + Shepley Bulfinch, Austin, Texas.
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Nic Lehoux

On the roof, a 373,000-gallon system captures and filters rainwater, which is then supplied to the library’s restrooms and garden.

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Austin Central Library, designed by Lake Flato + Shepley Bulfinch, Austin, Texas.
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Nic Lehoux

A six-story atrium — surrounded by the collections and event space — defines the nearly 200,000-square-foot building.

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Austin Central Library, designed by Lake Flato + Shepley Bulfinch, Austin, Texas.
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Andrea Calo

In Largo, Maryland, the Laurel Branch Library replaces an existing facility, which was one of Prince George’s County’s most heavily used libraries.

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Laurel Branch Library, designed by Grimm + Parker Architects, Largo, Maryland.
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Courtesy of the AIA

Providing plenty of paths to the entrance, the new library is pedestrian-friendly.


Inside, the 32,000-square-foot building features nooks for reading window-side.

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Laurel Branch Library, designed by Grimm + Parker Architects, Largo, Maryland.
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Courtesy of the AIA

“It is inspiring to approach as you walk up into the library and it is awe-producing as you make your way through the inside,” the jury wrote.

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Laurel Branch Library, designed by Grimm + Parker Architects, Largo, Maryland.
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Courtesy of the AIA

The Pico Branch Library sits in the heart of Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica, California. The facility takes advantage of previously underused green space, according to the jury.

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Pico Branch Library, designed by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc., Santa Monica, California.
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Courtesy of the AIA

The 9,000-square-foot building is LEED Platinum-certified, meaning it meets the highest standards of sustainability in terms of reducing its energy and water usage.

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Pico Branch Library, designed by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc., Santa Monica, California.
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Courtesy of the AIA

Skylights and the library’s carved ceiling help maximize the light that pours into the building.

Pico Branch Library, designed by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc., Santa Monica, California.

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Pico Branch Library, designed by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc., Santa Monica, California.
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Courtesy of the AIA

Through its rainwater-harvesting system, the library can collect up to 12,000 gallons of water from its roof and the roof of a building next door. The water is then filtered and used to flush the library’s toilets.


The Hastings Public Library’s renovation updated the existing 29,000-square-foot building and added 2,500 square feet of space.

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Hastings Public Library, renovated by The Clark Enersen Partners, Hastings, Nebraska.
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Paul Brokering

The project provides new colorful reading areas.

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Hastings Public Library, renovated by The Clark Enersen Partners, Hastings, Nebraska.
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Paul Brokering

There’s also a new 150-person, sub-dividable community room with a kitchen, and an outdoor patio next to library’s main area.

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Hastings Public Library, renovated by The Clark Enersen Partners, Hastings, Nebraska.
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Paul Brokering

Located in Massachusetts, the original Eastham Public Library opened in 1898. The original facility only had one room, and in the 1980s, another room was added.

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Eastham Public Library, renovated by Oudens Ello Architecture, Eastham, Massachusetts.
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Courtesy of the AIA

But in 2016, Oudens Ello Architecture overhauled the library by doubling its size and adding floor-to-ceiling windows.

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Eastham Public Library, renovated by Oudens Ello Architecture, Eastham, Massachusetts.
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Courtesy of the AIA

The “sleek LEED Gold-certified building … blurs the line between indoors and outdoors,” the jury wrote.


The facility’s cedar shingles and siding and bluestone flooring gives the library an outdoorsy feel.

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Eastham Public Library, renovated by Oudens Ello Architecture, Eastham, Massachusetts.
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Courtesy of the AIA

At this library, the AIA’s jury wrote that there are “elegant design solutions wherever the eye looks.”

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Eastham Public Library, renovated by Oudens Ello Architecture, Eastham, Massachusetts.
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Paul Brokering