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Fargo Central Public Library

Central Fargo Public Library

The new Fargo, ND central library will open to the public at the end of April. In advance of this opening, the local newspaper, The Forum, asked for us to answer a few questions about the design of the building. Listed here are the responses to these questions as prepared by Jeffrey Mandyck, the Project Architect.

Please discuss the design:
The Fargo Main Library is the result of community process; a community seeking an enlarged, resource-rich library acting as an indoor town square taking full advantage of its location on the civic edge of downtown Fargo a mere block from the Red River. The building presents itself to the city with a pair of brick facades acting as book ends supporting daylight filled spaces: community meeting rooms, a gallery, reading/study areas, staff spaces and book stacks. Daylight and views of the surrounding city and river guided the design. Large windows in the brick façade frame views of the Red River. These articulated openings in the brick were derived from the building traditions of downtown Fargo and the legacy of Carnegie Libraries.

To fully engage the Red River vista a two-story glass bay, containing the Children’s Reading Area and the Fireplace Room, protrudes through the east “bookend.” These light-filled rooms present the community activities to passers-by and are an integral part of the library’s identity. Within the building, daylight guides patrons through their experience of the library; from the entry gallery looking upon the civic plaza, to the daylight-filled stair (with treads of granite salvaged from the old Main Library) leading visitors to the voluminous second-floor, and to reading spaces along the windows. The broad length of windows makes the interior spaces and the internal activities a visible part of library’s identity.

What colors were chosen, and why?
The vibrancy and richness of North Dakota’s varied landscape were the inspiration for the library’s color palette; from the flora and fauna of the springtime grasslands and agricultural fields to the warm autumn tones of autumn to the serenity of winter whites that cover the Great Plains.

I overheard the building went through a major change. Why was this?
The previous design intended to salvage the existing structure and portions of the exterior facade of the old main library while expanding the building’s footprint and adding a second floor to it. The technical complexities of this approach were compounded by the poor soils of the site and ultimately were more costly than the estimated construction cost. The revised design retained the plan layout and design concepts of the previous design all within an entirely new structure and building envelope. This design came in under budget.

How do you feel the building and design turned out?
We, as this is a team endeavor, are proud and elated to have worked with the citizens of Fargo and the dedicated people of the Library to envision and to realize a building that will become an integral part of ones experience of the City of Fargo. Personally, I feel joyful. Standing in the new library, I feel the openness, connectedness, warmth and delight that were always part of our conversations and explorations of the library’s design.

Other comments:
There is a sustainable story embedded in the library’s design. Selecting the old Main Library’s site was only the first step in reusing Fargo’s resources. Salvaged granite from the existing building became the treads of the main stair. A bio-based material created from sunflower hulls was used for selected pieces of the library’s casework. And designing and thinking locally, regional woods like ash and maple are used throughout the library. Outside, native grasses and plants surround the library.

Creating a transparent and open library creates its own unique challenges for a building’s performance. The ample daylight in the building allows for daylight harvest, which reduces energy consumption by automatically turn of the lights when photo-sensors read sufficient sunlight levels. The large expanse of glazing utilizes high performing insulated glass. In addition, a computer controlled shading system tracks the sun’s movement and adjusts the shades accordingly. These shades allow daylight into the library and views to the exterior, yet they block the majority of the sun’s rays, which increase the building’s internal temperature during the summer and can cause glare on computer screens. During the off hours of operation the shades can be programmed to be down and this increases the insulating properties of the building envelope. As a result of this, the energy loss through the glazing is decreased and the amount of heat or cooling the building needs to do is decreased as well. Moreover, the heating and cooling system were designed to perform above current energy standards.


  1. I live and work in downtown Fargo. I am thrilled to have this amazing new library in my neighborhood, and look forward to many years of hanging out there!

  2. Having just finished architecture school, and being woefully unemployed, I was finally afforded time to go and visit this stunning new library. I can honestly say that it is one of the most wonderfully detailed and well designed buildings I have had the opportunity to visit (and that says something). It is by far the best new building in Fargo. Thank you for helping bring such a wonderful building to Fargo.

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  1. […] describing some of the concepts and materials that went into our New Main Library. You can read it here, and then let us know what you think by leaving a […]

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