The Southdale Library was the first regional facility in Hennepin County’s library system. It was followed by similar projects near Brookdale in Brooklyn Center and Ridgedale in Minnetonka.
The site, about 8 acres, was purchased from a sand-and-gravel company that had owned it for a half-century. The $2.9 million, 60,000-square-foot building opened to great fanfare in 1973 as the state’s third-largest public library, with space for 200,000 books.
With its stilts, white exterior walls and horizontal profile, the design, by Hodne/Stageberg Partners of Minneapolis, was an homage to Le Corbusier’s famous Villa Savoye, built near Paris in 1931. The library’s chrome-tinted windows, however, are pure 1970s.
The library won awards from the Minnesota Society of Architects, the American Institute of Architects, the American Library Association and the National Book Committee, with judges saying it “captures a dynamic community spirit with a highly flexible systems approach.”
Others were less effusive.
In his 1978 book “A Guide to the Architecture of Minnesota,” David Gebhard called it an example of the “hovering-box school of architecture,” and said: “One has to look twice before it is apparent that this is a public building and not another office building or savings and loan establishment.”
Its three floors were constructed in 1,000-square-foot modules, an adaptable configuration that allowed additional units to be added with ease. In the early 1980s, a portion of the building that originally housed administrative offices was remade into courtrooms. The library was expanded in the 1990s, and last renovated in 2003.
The county’s service center left in 2016, and the courtrooms closed earlier this year.