Henning Larsen and Nelson Byrd Woltz’s vision for the project is rooted in the landscape and community.
The building comprises four volumes peeking up from the butte, each a formal reference to the geography of the Badlands. With the tower (the Legacy Beacon) a visible landmark, the library becomes a hub for community and fluid threshold over which visitors can cross into the sprawling Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The four volumes link underground along a continuous narrative trail where Roosevelt’s legacy—the roots of the project—is exhibited and experienced.
Snøhetta’s design is informed by the President’s personal reflections on the landscape, his interest in environmental stewardship, and periods of quiet introspection and civic engagement.
The main library building is defined by its unique roof rising from the butte, echoing the landforms of the surrounding Badlands. Visitors can ascend the accessible rooftop to discover commanding views of the National Park and Medora. Inside the library, large windows highlight views to historically significant landscapes and complement the rhythm of the interactive exhibitions within.
The library also functions in harmony with the unique ecology of the region and expresses the conservation ethos for which Roosevelt is remembered. Its construction will use natural and renewable materials, while its energy systems will set a new standard for sustainable design in the region. Snøhetta’s design is oriented to diminish the impact of wind and other climatic factors so that the library will be accessible in all seasons.
Like one of the Badlands’ rock formations, the building emerges from the land as if carved away by water and wind. The building is composed of three, horseshoe-shaped elements that organize the different functions of the library. Each horseshoe houses the distinct activities on the inside while simultaneously embracing the dramatic outdoor environment, creating protected gardens and terraces that offer varied views of the landscape, showcase native plant communities, and provide habitat for wildlife.
The spaces between the volumes act like the cracks in the Badlands’ clay-rich soil, allowing light and air to enter the interior. At the building’s heart, the three horseshoes tilt upward to form a grand, dome-like central space from which all of the activities of the library can be seen and explored.
The design treats architecture and landscape as symbiotic and intimately connected with the site’s greater ecology. Informed by nature’s means of resilience in the harsh conditions of the Badlands, the project’s passive and active green strategies work together to achieve a net-zero, carbon-neutral library with a healthy environment full of natural light and fresh air. Additionally, the design integrates an ecological restoration and management plan for the entire site that will heal and renew the surrounding ecosystems over time.