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 Peabody Library in Baltimore, by Matthew Chrisopher
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let us slide over tonight to Stockholm for another library, the Stadsbibliotek. Instantly recognizable, it was built in 1928, making it much older than the Helsinki library from last week. But it is still an unabashedly modern design.
A stripped-down take on the classical orders, the building is, essentially, a cylinder emerging from a box. While the first half of the base is clad in a brick-like pattern with expressive entryways, the top of the box and the cylinder itself are plastered in a deep and striking orange, displaying the formal purity for the world to see.
Passing inside, you emerge from a narrow staircase into a celebration of books. In the round, rising for three stories, are books, books, and more books, with the room continuing to soar further overhead where punched windows let light rain in from above.
Surrounded by the rich wood and colourful spines, it’s quite the experience. Here are a couple of 360~ views so you can look all around: a view from the ground floor near the entry, and a view from the top balcony.
A classic building that has more than stood the test of time. Well worth seeing.
And like that I’m back from a vacation to the Nordic countries that was, as my vacations often are, heavily aimed towards architectural visiting. So many buildings! And plenty to share in the coming weeks. Hard to know where to begin, and so with no reason other than it jumped into my head let’s start with the new Helsinki Central Library.
There’s lots to love here. Sinuous and sensual, the curving wood exterior forms an inviting covered entry, while the iceberg-like glass box that rests on top hints at the reading room to come. The curving wood continues to play around once inside on the ground floor, carving out spaces for the café and several gathering spaces.
Moving up one floor on the central staircase leads you to this amazing project area, with raked seating for work on your laptop and access to a maker space with sewing machines, 3D printers, video editing computers, cutting mats, power tools, and all sorts of other goodies, all nestled among wood-covered diagonal bracing. (I took a 360~ photo from the start of the project/maker space, you can view it here)
The top floor is where the books live, and yeah, it’s quite something. With the ceiling floating overhead like an undulating cloud the rows of books (and trees!) extend in both directions towards each end of the building. There, the floors rise up like a landmass, housing a reading room at one end and the children’s area in the other. Should all the glass makes you feel like going outside, you can, onto a large balcony that overlooks the city.
A wonderful new library and community hub, purposefully set opposite the Finnish parliament building to emphasize the relationship between governance and active learning, freedom of expression, and citizenship. And beyond books the library seizes new roles with the maker spaces, classrooms, theatres, and more. Great stuff.