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Unveiling Smith-Clementi's Conceptual Design for The Library of Celsus: An Artful Mix of Old & New

Architects Julie Smith-Clementi and Frank Clementi have just unveiled their design for The Great Library, reimagining the Library of Celsus.

Taking cues from this ancient architectural masterpiece, they have created a modern structure that preserves the original's grandeur while introducing an exciting blend of contemporary features.

Click here to jump to more detailed views of their design. 

Meet the architectural icons behind The Great Library's design

Julie Smith-Clementi and Frank Clementi are a dynamic duo shaping the future of architecture. If you don't recognize their names, take a quick look at their portfolio and you'll realize you know their work. From the Hollywood Bowl to Austin City Limits, they've left their creative mark on iconic buildings of our time.  Collectively, they have over 20 AIA Design Awards and have been featured in over 300 publications.

Currently, Smith-Clementi is leading the architectural vision for OCv!be, a 95-acre project in Anaheim, California. To say it's a large undertaking is an understatement, it includes an arena, concert halls, offices, market hall, retail, and housing connected to a transit district. While there's a lot to manage, Julie is laser-focused on one goal: creating an amazing place that fosters community.

It’s not just what they create… it’s how they create it

As impressive as their portfolio is, Smith-Clementi has something else up their sleeves that truly sets them apart: how they work. 

Bree Carr, VP of Real Estate Programming & Development for the OCv!be project, says that Smith-Clementi was hand selected for the project because they were the "only option for us pulling this off in a way that's going to have the quality that we're after here. [...] Having somebody with the connected vision has made all the difference in the world."

"We've used a number of digital tools. I like to think that when Julie and I started in this business, we were using tools that Leonardo might've found familiar. But if he came to our desks now, he wouldn't know what to do. What's great about our time here is that we've gotten to see that transition." - Frank Clementi

Frank and Julie aren’t alone in realizing the competitive edge that comes with technology. Read more about the benefits, and how to calculate ROI and measure progress, in this article.

Reimagining The Library of Celsus: the creative process

When it came to designing The Great Library, Julie and Frank had their work cut out for them. The Library of Celsus is a complex and crumbling Roman ruin completed around 100 CE. The challenge was to pay homage to its grandeur while infusing it with a modern twist.

Images showing the interior, roof details, and facade of The Library of Celsus

To start their creative journey, Trimble used a laser scanner to create a point cloud model of the site. With this hyper-detailed as-built, they were prepared to begin layering in their contemporary addition.

We sat down with them to learn more about their perspective on the project...

Why are you excited about The Great Library?

Julie: When we were approached to work on The Great Library project, we were really excited because it's theoretical, but it's based in what we do in terms of how we design and work with consultants in Connected Construction, but also being in Turkey and being a Roman ruin, and we've worked on projects that are historical in nature. We've worked on theoretical, more VR-type projects, and so to us, this seemed like a really good marriage of two things that we've  already worked on in one project.

Frank: The Great Library Project is interesting because while utilizing some of the more current technology, photogrammetry, and point cloud mapping, on a building for which there are essentially no records, so connecting those two endpoints of-- all building is technology, and to look at a Roman ruin in Turkey and understand it through our lenses is a really exciting opportunity, especially because buildings like this library don't generally move and therefore can only have access to the people that visit them.

A virtual manifestation of a building has a much wider opportunity to reach people, and so this project really does cover a lot of the things we're interested in, nostalgia, antiquity, legacy, modernity, placelessness, all these things that we like our work to be about and most specifically cultural.

How exciting is working with an ancient world heritage site? This is obviously a fairly unique opportunity for the project.

Frank: The interesting thing about environments like that is not necessarily that there is a sacred or precise interpretation of a Roman structure, but that it has been with us for that long.

To a certain extent, we can see it as a restoration project or as a stewardship project. It's our job to hand this forward and add our own value or restore some value to it by continuing to use it rather than just embalming it like a museum artifact.

Julie: The aspect of what we're doing at OCv!be that we are continuing on into The Great Library is really that aspect of collaboration, early and often. We think that collaboration will yield the most interesting design results that really incorporate all the different engineering aspects.

With our build being virtual, will that change the way that you work for the following, or will you follow the same process that you would for a real-world physical build?

Julie: The process of design isn't going to change for us as this project is a virtual project. The process that we go through, even thinking about what are the design ideas early on and how do we evaluate those, bring those forward, how do we interact with different consultants to understand some of the ideas and how we can turn those into real parts of the project, is going to be exactly the same as what we do now on any building. [...] I think in the process right now, one of the interesting aspects is really thinking about how this virtual project fits into an idea of sustainability and the environment that it's in, which is very hot and dry. Even though it is virtual, we're having these discussions about how do we generate our own power for the building? How do we deal with the cooling aspects?

Those elements, we're taking that into consideration early on because that would be important for any building. While this project is in that realm of real and not real, we're treating it in a way that is very real.

Frank: I think that the creative process and the design process is something that is independent of the project to a certain extent, that in any project, whether it's small or large, you are dealing with initial phases of discovery, and some of that has already been done with the point cloud mapping, and some of it has been done by our own research of understanding culturally, what is a library, what was a library.

Blending old and new: The Great Library's conceptual design

Now that we've delved into the creative minds of architects Julie Smith-Clementi and Frank Clementi and explored their design process for The Great Library, it's time to take a closer look at their conceptual design for The Library of Celsus.

Frank and Julie's rooftop design was inspired by the tents commonly seen at archeology sites. They're considering using a film, to keep it lightweight. They're also exploring the idea making the roof translucent, but want to carefully evaluate the solar heat gain implications. 

The design includes creating a fully enclosed, conditioned interior space. 

On each side of the library, interactive panels span from nearly floor to ceiling. In the virtual experience of The Great Library, coming soon, these panels will host informational resources, articles, and guides on Connected Construction. 

The Great Library adventure continues

In episode three of The Great Library (coming soon!), you'll see behind-the-scenes conversations between Frank, Julie and the project’s engineers as they rapidly iterate on the design. This collaboration allowed them to push boundaries while finding the most effective ways to bring their vision to life.

"Julie and I collaborate. We are neither individual authors.

These tools allow external collaboration to an extent that we've never experienced before.

We now can collaborate directly with the owner, directly with the contractor, and directly with the engineer... simultaneously.

So we're really excited on The Great Library to get to work with the team that did the point cloud scanning, that is doing the engineering and MEP, all simultaneously. It's almost an enlightenment-era scale of collaborative opportunity.

Collaboration used to mean internal collaboration, and now it means external collaboration.

- Frank Clementi

As The Great Library progresses, Julie and Frank are excited to see their design come to life and inspire future architects. They hope that The Great Library will serve as a source of inspiration in architecture, showcasing the possibilities of designing better buildings than ever, through technology and collaborative workflows.

Subscribe for updates on The Great Library's journey as it nears completion, and witness the transformation of a historical masterpiece into a modern architectural marvel.

About the Author

Hannah is a Content Creation Specialist for Trimble Construction. She has 10 years of experience in the construction industry, with a particular passion for green, resilient, equitable construction. Along the way, she’s worked with energy efficiency assessors, custom home builders, architects, and lean building specialists.

Profile Photo of Hannah Finch