Competition: Re-Imagining The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Competition: Re-Imagining The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Imagine: After three years of careful dismantling, moving, painstakingly re-assembling and most importantly, restoring, John Notman’s historic Athenæum building has finally arrived at its new location in Fairmount Park, where it will serve as the headquarters of the newly formed Philadelphia chapter of the Friends of Brownstone (PhilaFOB). Flush with government funding from lottery and fracking revenue, PhilaFOB made the Athenæum Board of Directors an offer it couldn’t refuse. So now, for the first time since 1845, the lot at 6th & St. James Streets is vacant, and the Athenæum, still a vital independent lending and research library, with growing architectural and design collections, must re-imagine itself without its historic building. Given its location and its corporate purposes, what might a mid-21st century Athenæum look like?

Looking Forward is not simply a design competition but is also an exploration of the future of the institution. The Athenæum of 2014 is a member-supported library with a circulating collection and reading rooms. It also is a specialized research library with internationally significant collections in architecture and design. It is a vital organization that engages its members and the public with lectures and programs, exhibitions, and publications. It grants awards and fellowships related to its goals, collections and services. Its digital presence is robust and includes a Regional Digital Imaging Center. It administers two online services, The Greater Philadelphia Geohistory Network ( and American Architects & Buildings ( which provide access to resources on the built environment. These services are used 300,000 times daily by researchers around the world.

Entries in the competition will be judged on the quality of their  ideas for the future of the institution AND their design for its accommodation. Both are of equal importance. In addition to  considering the Athenæum of 2014, participants are encouraged to  imagine how library services in general and the Athenæum’s services  in particular may change by 2050. Appropriate spaces should be  included in the design to accommodate the entrant’s vision.

For more information, visit

Registration will be open April 30 - October 17, 2014.
Registration cost:
$25 for students
$50 for professionals/non-students.
One project per registration.
There is no limit to the number of registrations per person or per firm.

About this author
Cite: AD Editorial Team. "Competition: Re-Imagining The Athenaeum of Philadelphia" 08 Sep 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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