Miller Hull

Kennedy Library Renovation

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
The beating heart of the campus is revived in this renovation that celebrates the Kennedy Library as the true integral space that it is and reestablishes its role as the center of the campus community.
Client Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Certifications Pursuing LEED Gold
Size 200,000 SF
Completion 2025


With the advancement of technology, our access to information has never been greater. This has particularly affected places of higher education whose infrastructure hasn’t yet accounted for the digital age, and whose physical and social model continues to evolve to support a balance of digital and physical access to resources.

The California Polytechnic State University in San Louis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO) was facing the challenges that come with such pedagogical shifts. As its collection of digital resources grew, the library reduced the size of its physical collections in order to free up space to support students and faculty. With existing services distributed and fragmented across the library, it soon became clear that a major reimagining was in order to prioritize space for students, staff, and faculty use.

Within a Collaborative Design-Build delivery model, Miller Hull along with contractor, Hensel Phelps, lead the renovation, which targets the renewal of much of the building infrastructure and will transform the physical and operational components of this critical campus facility. The Kennedy Library is a 200,000 SF, five-story, cherished brutalist concrete building that was built in 1977-1980  and designed to support passive heating and cooling. Since that time, there have been no major building system upgrades, leading to an environment that fails to provide optimal thermal comfort for building occupants and falls short of supporting new technologies. A piecemeal patchwork of smaller renovations over time has also left the library filled with insular spaces, reducing transparency and creating a barrier for students looking for services within the library.

The design of the project creates a welcoming environment free of clutter where students can easily navigate and locate services. An exterior envelope upgrade adds insulation and works together with a new mechanical heating and cooling system to meet thermal comfort goals while reducing energy consumption by a whopping 30%.

Access to services, in addition to student collaboration and study spaces are prioritized, reducing and consolidating space for collections. Flexible exhibition and gathering spaces are centrally located to provide areas that celebrate work and research on campus. Visible to primary circulation routes within the library, these gathering spaces are strategically located to support connections on campus where a visiting academic may come across a student’s work on exhibit, or a student may pass by and recognize a faculty member hosting an event.

Supporting connections and creating community, the project also aims to establish a sense of amicability and equity. Engagement has been critical to ensure the design reflects the wants and needs of the student body, and throughout the project, our team met with a variety of student groups to understand what kinds of improvements might make each student feel more welcomed and comfortable. In line with student requests, the project implements a clear circulation pathway creating intuitive access to resources, technology, and all-gender restrooms. The organization and configuration of these spaces supports the exchange of information, chance encounters, reinforcing relationships and strengthening the sense of community on campus.

Student, staff, and faculty engagement identifies the library as “the beating heart” of campus, and the renovation lives up to this aspiration by creating space for the thriving campus community to gather, collaborate, and embrace Cal Poly’s philosophy of “Learn[ing] by Doing.”

Project Team

Architect: The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP
Design-Build Contractor: Hensel Phelps