Recognizing the growth at the western edge of campus, the renovated complex’s focal point is a two-story, glass reading room standing two stories above ground.
The new west facade is curved, following the curvature of the Oval and Neil Avenue that was restored in this project.
The historic 1913 building (left) was expanded several times over the years. The 1977 and 1951 pavilion additions (right) were removed in the current project.
Entrances on the east and west each lead to skylit atria that are connected by the glass-encased book tower at the center of the building.
On the interior, the existing book tower's cladding was replaced with glass. The left image shows the existing conditions before the new west atrium was built around it (right).
The atria introduce natural light and a sense of spaciousness into the library core.
The areas surrounding each atria are highly flexible environments, designed to accommodate ever-evolving research methods, learning styles and library uses.
Technology and casual seating activate the areas around the atria.
Librarian offices are located along the north and south perimeter of the building.
The new Buckeye Reading Room on the west is a flexible environment that is frequently used for lectures and special events.
The restored Grand Reading Room on the east is a popular space for quiet study.
Previously divided into two floors (left), the mezzanine level in the Grand Reading Room was removed to reclaim the grandeur of the original design intent (top right).
In the restoration of the Grand Reading Room, windows facing the Oval were enlarged and brought down to floor level.
A range of conference rooms are available for student group use.
Above the new West Reading Room, conference rooms overlook a roof garden of sea glass.
A cafe opens to an outdoor plaza at the west entrance.
A flexible exhibition area displays selections from the library's rare book collection.
Previously a mechanical room, the top level of the tower was repurposed as the Campus Reading Room and offers some of the best views on campus.
The range of environments provides choice and reflects the various learning styles of today's students.
GUND led a highly inclusive and collaborative planning process.
The library is both a destination and connector on campus. The new symmetrical organization and pedestrian "main street" maintains the east-west axis of the Oval.
New floor plans
New floor plans
William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library
Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio
Thompson Library is the main library at Ohio State serving more than 54,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The original c. 1913 Beaux Arts building was enlarged in 1947–1951 and expanded again in 1977. This project transformed the library that largely functioned as three separate buildings into a unified and flexible 21st century research library and campus hub. Challenges included reconfiguring the internal organization and merging building styles and materials without increasing the building’s gross size. Thompson Library has become an active academic and social destination. Since the university’s 2009 fall quarter began, about 12,000 students a day have used the library — more than three times the daily gate count than prior to the renovation.

Thompson Library occupies a prominent location within the university’s historic Oval—the most significant campus green space—conveying the significance of the library in the main stream of campus life. Site constraints limited options for expansion, therefore compact massing strategies were fundamental to the success of the project. Earlier additions on both the east and west facades were removed because they compromised library image and functions. The new compact massing and reconfigured organization reduced the library’s gross size, but increased its usable area.

The library maintains a symmetrical organization and east-west “public street” through the building in response to the east-west axis of the Oval. Transparency and openness clarify the internal organization of the library. Entrances on both the east and west lead to new sky-lit atria connected by a glass-encased book tower at the center of the building. The existing skin of the book tower was replaced with glass to reveal seven stories of books. The significant volume of the atria coupled with the natural light and views of collections and activities surrounding the atria provides a dramatic sense of arrival while offering visual cues that remind the library is a place for scholastic work. Users immediately understand the library’s organization, spatial hierarchy and direction.

The tower remains the repository of print materials (with the exception of special collections, which are located off of the atria). Reading rooms are located on the east, west and on the top level of the tower. The historic Grand Reading Room on the east was restored to the grandeur of its original 1913 design. In contrast, the new Buckeye Reading Room on the west is a very contemporary space with advanced technology to support lectures and special events. The Campus Reading Room on the top floor of the tower is a flexible area offering some of the most dramatic views of campus. It is frequently used for gatherings and special events.

Collaborative meeting areas are located throughout the library. The “trays” surrounding each atrium, are highly adaptable environments for the evolving patterns of learning and library use. The trays feature flexible furniture and lighting, and a straight-forward organization within which secondary and tertiary modifications can be made as program, learning styles, and technology advance. Staff areas line the building on the north and the south. Offices feature open layouts to support interaction among librarians and with students.




215,000 SF Renovation
91,000 SF New


AIA/ American Library Association, Library Award
Society of College and University Planning, Architecture Awards, Citation for Design Excellence for Renovation or Adaptive Reuse
Boston Society of Architects, Honor Awards, Citation for Design Excellence
Boston Society of Architects, Education Facilities Design Award
AIA Columbus, Merit Award for Design Excellence
Columbus Landmarks Foundation, James B. Recchie Award


Brad Feinknopf
GUND Partnership