University of South Florida


Tampa, FL


Architecture, Experiential Design and Wayfinding, Interior Design


LEED Silver Certified

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Originally built in 1975, the University of South Florida’s (USF) main library in Tampa, Florida, had outgrown their dated space that serves 2 million visitors each year. In an effort to support its students’ success, USF partnered with Gresham Smith to design and renovate parts of the space, increase seating capacity through the library’s fifth floor, upgrade four floors of restrooms and improve the library experience through design.

Throughout the design process, we engaged university leaders and student groups to define the project vision and to make sure the renovations addressed students’ specific needs. In all, our design added 400 new individual quiet study spaces, a dedicated graduate reading room, two undergraduate reading rooms, technology upgrades throughout the space and eight group study rooms, increasing the library’s seating capacity by 24%.

square-foot renovation
increase in seating capacity
students use it everyday
Students in USF Library

Giving a Voice to the Students

USF’s main library sees between 15,000 and 18,000 students per day. As the renovations were completed with student funds, it was important that the students play an active role in the design. Our team held a kick-off session with USF’s planning and construction team, library staff and a student focus group to align goals and the vision for the project. Multiple follow-up student design charrettes were held to ensure the students had a voice.

Students in the USF Library

Let There Be Light!

Our design capitalized on the limited amount of natural light, with interior glazing allowing for borrowed light in the interior spaces. Book stack space was consolidated to locations that preserved views, while customizable furniture allowed for a wide range of study configurations to meet student preferences.

USF Library study room

Staying on Brand

Brand identity is an important tool in student recruitment and retention, so we used USF’s vivid green school color for wayfinding throughout this high-traffic facility. The design team also used budget-friendly materials to create a branded environment that reinforces the mission of the organization.