BIBLIOTEKET / THE LIBRARY
By Jakob Harry Hybel
With the extension of an existing culture house combined with a brand new library and concert hall, the otherwise anonymous and worn-down Northwestern part of Copenhagen has gotten a highly distinguishable icon.
The building is designed by COBE in collaboration with Transform – both part of what has come to be known as The New Wave in Danish architecture, characterised by young and internationally oriented architects with a distinctly conceptual approach.
A shiny stack
The golden facade is what catches your eye. You cannot help it. The entire building is shrink-wrapped in extruded, golden aluminum, which bears a striking resemblance to chainmail armor, and it radically stands out from the rough concrete and brickwork facades of the old industrial buildings
The glittering building, quite simply called BIBLIOTEKET – or THE LIBRARY – houses an extension of an existing culture house, as well as the addition of a new library and a concert hall. Basically, the architects wanted the building to appear like a stack of books. The four boxes – or books – are displaced in proportion to each other and they each contain different functions. At ground floor, there is a children’s library, then a youth library, a library for adults and finally on top, the concert hall. The different volumes are connected with staircases and balconies and in the space between the boxes, flexible, multi-purpose areas are fitted in.
In order to achieve complete uniformity inside and out, the same metal cladding was used to line the inner walls – and it is admittedly very effective. Seen both from the outside and from within, the building really does seem to be made up by a gravity defying stack of boxes.
Some of the windows are concealed behind the outer skin, which makes for remarkable shifts in appearance over the course of a day. The windows are barely visible during daylight, but once night falls, they are lit up from within and peek out through the perforated facade, like eyes through a thin veil.
The heart of the building is its atrium, where everything is joined together. With two entrances on either side, it acts both as a the building’s bustling, all-connecting nerve center, as well as a dynamic extension of the street that creates an urban passage through the building.
Learning from Bilbao
The neighborhood of Nordvest (Northwest) is an area with a rather crude reputation. Situated on the edge of the city and crisscrossed by heavily trafficked thoroughfares, it consists mainly of industrial buildings and large-scale building blocks. But it is also a culturally and ethnically diverse area with a unique and charmingly rough atmosphere.
Similar to the Spanish city of Bilbao before the Guggenheim Museum was built, the Copenhagen municipality decided to build a landmark that would unite and invigorate the Northwest neighborhood. Needless to say, it worked very effectively, as THE LIBRARY almost immediately after construction, was nicknamed ‘The Golden House’ by the locals.
|We chose the project because it was the most uncompromising and distinct building. It was important to us to get a building that would create an identity and a natural meeting place for the neighborhood.|
|/ Jan Lindboe|
Leader at Arts Centre Bispebjerg Nordvest
Part of the reason for the building’s broad public appeal is the project’s quite forward-thinking concept of the library being more than just a place you go to find books. It can work as a village hall and a community center and an urban space to boot – all without compromising with its primary function.
Thus, bold and extravagant as it may seem at first, THE LIBRARY does exactly what it set out to do, inspiring a tainted neighborhood with a sense of pride and community. But most importantly, it is one of the rare projects that succeed in creating a sense of place, where people just feel welcome.