Architecture Monday

Though it’s a brutalist icon, and despite my love of libraries, I’ve never visited the inside of the Robarts Library on the campus of the University of Toronto.  But after seeing these photos of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book wing, I really gotta!

There’s a lot of goodness going on here, from the strong hexagonal patterns (reminds me a bit of the National Art Centre), the cathedral like nave of books, the intricate play of multiple levels, the clerestory window coupled with the ginormous hanging lantern, all enhanced by the rich tones of the wood paneling, the books, and the red carpet underpinning it all.  Killer work.

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library by Mathers and Haldenby Architects.

Architecture Monday

Culture house, community locus, and an example of lovely design, this new library in Tingbjerg alights amidst a garden city that was once a model city but has fallen into one of grave challenges.

It’s hard to choose what’s more striking at first glance… the large glazed façade that acts like a beacon, showcasing the activities within, or the bold wedge shape that, from certain angles, makes the whole thing read like a giant picture frame.  And that shape is not just some fancy thing chosen for frivolity.  Instead it was crafted quite deliberately as a way of bridging the scale from the existing school it connects with while also crating entry courts to both itself and the school.  In addition, the exterior cladding (which is mirrored within), with its strong vertical banding, is a nod in colour and in texture to the surrounding buildings.

The intricacies continue inside, with multiple rooms and levels all tetrising together to serve the building’s many functions, be it library, learning, performances, resource center, community room, and beyond.  The multi-levels follow the shape of the wedge through a big atrium, peeling back like a mountainous town and allowing views and interactions while also providing a sweet spatial experience for the many different uses.

This is cool.  Architecture can be a great force multiplier, which is to say that through design and the creation of great space it can boost the effects of action and bolster the community.  Provided, of course, that such action and community is being supported in the first place (otherwise it can also be a multiplier, but in the negative direction).  I hope that proves to be the case here.

The Tingbjerg Library by Cobe

Architecture Monday

Maybe it’s something about spending so much time indoors that has me looking at libraries so much of late… whatever the reason, here’s another lovely one and one that I can check out the next time I can head back home to visit!

Wood.  Definitively lots of wood going on here.  Big, muscular, impressive wood, using engineered mass timber construction from responsibly managed lands (I am unsure if this is FSC certified, but I hope so).  Arranged like a series of curving splayed fingers, each topped with a green roof, it opens towards the public square with a giant portico.  It’s got great visual complexity, changing appearance from every angle, its various bits always in a dance with each other.

That beefy post and beam structure allows all below to be enclosed entirely with glass.  Inside the veritable forest of leaning trunks and all that light makes for a vibrant experience, almost cathedral-like.  It also allows for maximum flexibility; as its role evolves over time, the library can shuffle itself around to suit the needs of the community.

A very cool, engaging, and fun design.  Top shelf work.

The Scarborough Civic Centre Library by LGA.

Architecture Monday

Another library tonight that forms a nice contrast from the museum of last week’s post.  Where the watch museum went for a delicate and unique form, this one takes its cues from its agrarian surroundings, exuding rugged beauty and muscle, though done with an equal eye to proportion and detail.

Using brick and concrete, the heavy frame with its open-gable roof rises from the terraced paddy fields that surround it.  The shell is treated almost like an independent structure, like a found building (with a tree nearly growing into it at one end!) into which are inserted the lighter and glass-faced interior spaces.

Inside the contrast continues, with wood and steel and glass playing off the coffered robustness of the frame.  Plenty of cutaways and punched windows lets the light in and allows for little details like the study nooks and the upper terrace to look back out to the fields all around.

I dig it.  A nice and textured solidity that settles into the fields around it coupled with an airy interior that has plenty of moments to delight.  Nicely done.

The Sichuan Fine Arts Institute Library of Huxi by Tanghua Architect & Associates

Architecture Monday

With my brain being a bit on the fritz, a good book is what the hypothetical doctor ordered.  And this wonderful library in Muyinga, Burundi fits the bill for a lovely place to grab and read a book.

There’s a lot of from local culture and the conditions of the site that went into this building, used in a great way that are both functional and fanciful.  Right from the start you can see it in the locally-fabricated compressed earth block masonry which allows the building to match rich colour of the surrounding earth and tree trunks.  There is a rhythm to the high-buttressed walls, each perforated to allow for light and cross-ventilation, and that further extends into the generous covered walkway.  At night, the whole assemblage glows like a lantern.

Inside, it just gets downright sweeter.  It’s lofty and inviting, with a great connection to the outdoors and steps that become bookshelves.  But the piece de resistance is the hammock suspended overhead… what a great reading nook!

I love it.  A great example of learning from the vernacular, using and building skills in the community, and creating a wonderful space through straightforward good design and a few touches of whimsy.  Great stuff.

The Library of Muyinga by BC Architects

Architecture Monday

Get your travellin’ shoes on… to round out our little library tour tonight we’re going to start in Oslo and then hop on the overnight ferry to Copenhagen for a trio of wonderful book houses.

The main Oslo Public Library starts outside with a classic pediment nestled within a larger, more stripped-down yet still neoclassical edifice.  (And I do like the little string of festive lights!)

Where upon entering you are guided to this large open hall, bathed by an immense skylight and dominated (in a good way) by the expressive mural.  Like the exterior, it’s a great mix of the classical, in the form of colonnaded hall, and the cleaner forms of early modernism (it reminds me in many ways of the work of Adolf Loos, who was active at the time of construction).

I really like how this mix plays out in the antechamber, with the classic ionic columns supporting a mezzanine that overlooks the main book hall, provides access to an exterior balcony, and also has that great serrated desk surrounding the atrium opening.  Wonderful design.  As a fun aside, it is nicknamed the “House of Stairs” in honour of its many, many staircases.

For its counterpart at the Copenhagen Main Library we have this inviting atrium that features these playful seating and reading cubbies that stick out into the four-story high space.  Very nifty.

The Royal Library now consists of two buildings, the older and the new, split by a road yet spanned by bridges.  From the modern entry atrium, you cross through the old archways to enter the historical wing.  (Which, itself, was many years ago the ‘new’ library to replace one that sat where the new-new library wing now sits…)

Not much to say other than lovely!  The smooth white plaster archways are wonderful and also work as a great backdrop for the richness and ornateness of the desks, shelves, windows, and light fixtures, not to mention the classical Corinthian capitals and dark stone.

The new atrium has this great commanding view of the waterfront as you exit.

Lastly, here’s an architecture and design library we stumbled upon!  I’m on an architecture trip; there was no way I was not going to check it out.  A repurposed (adaptive reuse!) warehouse/commercial building along the waterfront, the exposed structure and windows with the hundred little window panes works supremely well.

And there we have it.  As I traveled throughout from country to country I really got the sense that libraries — and books in general, for there were many bookstores as well — hold a high place in people’s minds, being well regarded and considered an important part of the social fabric.  With that reverence comes the desire to make them accessible, available, and to celebrate what they are and what they represent, leading to these great spaces for learning, reading, gathering, and creating community.

Architecture Monday

The library train continues!  And what’s this, combining books and adaptive reuse, two of my favorite things, together?  Yes indeed!

Housed in a former tram (streetcar) maintenance sheds, the library takes full advantage of the old tramway doors to craft huge windows with giant shutters that playfully incorporate a bookshelf motif when open.

Inside, the space is kept wide open, punctuated only by furniture (including the bookshelves with colourful seating/desks), and a mezzanine against the great exposed brick wall that itself nestles a kid’s corner that rises like a boxy mountain.

Nicely, the library expands outward into an adjacent café, which itself is adjacent to a sports complex that occupies the rest of the repair shed.  Even there, books (and games) abound!

Altogether forming a wicked community hub, this is one great bit of adaptive reuse, keeping the history and aged ruggedness of the old shed and marrying it with an airy comfort.  I liked it a bunch, if I lived nearby I’d be there often for sure.  Nicely done.

The Norrebro Bibliotek

Architecture Monday

Let us step backwards in time tonight and enter the National Library of Finland.  Standing directly opposite the grand Helsinki Cathedral, it’s stateliness and position are a testament to the importance of knowledge and books to the Finnish people.

The main hall was built between 1840-1845, and, quite frankly, stately may well be an understatement.  Rife with classical details from floor to column to ceiling to dome, there is no doubt that this is a hallowed place for the books that encircle the room.  Every direction you look is a rich tapestry of colour, texture, and form.

The rotunda, built between 1902-1906, is more spare but no less impressive.  Reminding me a bit of the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, the radial rows of books climb balcony by balcony towards the large skylight overhead.  I love the difference between it and the main hall, showcasing the newer motifs of its day with highly artful and expressive cast iron  columns, railings, and details,  not to mention the skylight, reminiscent of the Crystal Palace from the Great Exhibition of 1851.

And to cap it off, the side/secondary reading rooms just keep that grandness going strong.

For the nation’s archives and repository of its cultural record, there is nothing sad about this building at all;  it is fitting and mighty fine.  Here are a couple of 360~ views!  One in the main hall, and one in the rotunda.

The National Library of Finland by C L Engel, Gustaf Nyström, and others.