This session by two highly qualified architects from Mecanoo Architects dealt with libraries’physical spaces. Libraries are very significant buildings in the fabric of a city and are literally an extension of public space. They embody the society and culture of the communities they serve and have changed from book collection places to spaces connecting many of the services they offer. They try to draw their audience into the areas they serve. We have gone from a passive model to an active multifunctional one which has a major influence on the design of the buildings.
Mecanoo is headquartered in Delft, Netherlands, with offices in Asia and the US. It has 120 employees, 40% of whom are female. Its approach to design is people, place, purpose, in that order. People are the constant throughout any project, and hopefully will influence the design of the buildings to be pleasurable.
Although they work on new construction, they are increasingly being asked to do renovations. Through their projects, they learn about libraries as an emblem of the city. Libraries interact with us over the whole course of our lives: many different groups use them, which is both a challenge and an inspiration.
Here are 4 recent library projects; many more are described on the Mecanoo website.
Delft Library: The roof is a landscape that gives back to the community. It is a meeting place for people. It is in front of a conference center which creates a balance. The library has become a tourist attraction. The cone is an iconic landmark, which makes the library a cathedral and an unforgettable space. It is open from 8 AM to 2 AM and is heavily used by students, especially at exam times.
Library of Birmingham, UK. Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK and has many identities and a young population. To understand how people move through the city, start by visiting other buildings to see cultural attitudes. The library is a vertical building; how are people brought up through it? The journey through the building is a way of exploring it and triggers curiosity for new visitors.
All the functions wanted to be on the ground floor, so the building was extended tod let people pass over the roof and see the activities of the library even if they don‘t actually go in. In the rotunda, many different functions take place. On the rooftop there is a garden that is maintained by volunteers–a balcony for the city.
Mid-Manhattan Library renovation: The original building was a department store built in 1915 and was not a pleasant place. There was no daylight because windows had been blocked up.
More space was added for more books, seats were added, and low shelves were installed to create more capacity for other activities. The building was transformed. A roof terrace became a public space.
MLK Jr. Memorial Library renovation. Some people wanted the building removed; others wanted to keep it. It was used a lot by homeless people. It was necessary to think about how to create a safe space. People were scared to use the stairs because you could not see any other areas of the building. The books got the daylight, not the people.
The solution was to create 2 “cores” for public and staff with open stairs. A slide for children was added next to the stairs. There were 2 ramps to the underground parking garage. One of them was removed to create a corner cafe. A wall along the sidewalk was taken down so the inside became visible. Space for informal performance seating was added. A function space (fab lab) was created on lower level. The auditorium was moved to the top level so people had to go through the library to get to it. A Great Hall at the entry with seating and an open Grand Reading Room have lots of daylight. In the future, there is capability to add a rooftop pavilion with a public terrace and garden.