Bringing New Life to the Iconic Atlanta Central Library

Atlanta Central Library, Exterior

What once stood as an imposing monolithic book repository standing in the heart of Atlanta’s downtown is now a library worthy of its iconic stature. Hillsman provided FF&E design and procurement services for Fulton County Library System’s $275 million construction program, which includes 34 libraries. Although the Atlanta Central Library is only one of the library renovation/addition projects, it is certainly the most dramatic project and unquestioned centerpiece that invites the community in!

Working alongside Cooper Carry, Vines Architecture, architect of record Moody Nolan, and design-build contractor Winter Johnson Group, Hillsman’s expertise in library programming and design, and firm collaboration, offered a solution. Together the team reimagined the cold, harsh, outdated library and designed a vibrant, inviting and truly functional space that meets today’s needs.

Library employees and end-users can see in the design a softening of hard edges in the circular LED lighting that mimics the round skylights on the fifth floor and significantly brightens the space. Those same curves are evident in some of the furniture selections, with round tables, display shelving and chairs sporting softer forms placed throughout the spaces. Color schemes for the furniture include bright pops of blue, green, and orange that add new energy and vibrancy and complement the accent walls that can be found around the library.


Hillsman points out that in many areas, bookshelves were kept low, with the express purpose of allowing unimpeded light. “Natural light has a huge impact on human well-being,” said Hillsman. “We took a whole-team approach and were very intentional about design decisions such as allowing as much natural light into the building’s interior as possible.” Many bookshelves are also on casters to provide maximum mobility and flexibility so library staff can easily configure furniture to accommodate a range of uses and events around the building.

At 10 stories and 272,000 square feet, this $50+ million project offers the community new gathering space that brings together ground level exhibit/artists spaces, a two-story auditorium with a large “garage” style door that opens to plaza space, a technology suite with more than 100 computer stations, an upgraded children’s library, glass enclosed reading rooms, a two-story atrium and a new grand communicating stair that connects interior spaces and facilitated movement throughout the building. In keeping with the goal of maximizing daylight, a large skylight and new windows were also added to the building. The library also includes flexible meeting spaces, and event space for public use.