The Black Diamond

by | 07. Aug 2012

Cultural | Project

Photo courtesy SHL


The Royal Library represents a break away from the traditional library structure by housing a wide variety of cultural facilities.


Photo courtesy SHL


Photo courtesy SHL

Danish architects schmidt hammer lassen K/S won the European architecture competition to for the design of the Royal Danish Library in 1993.

Movement versus stringent form; symmetry versus asymmetry. While the Holmen building sits on the ground, the Diamond floats on a ribbon of raised glass. The ribbon of glass offers views into the foyer from the exterior and panoramic views of the entire waterfront from within. The building has seven stories plus a basement. Its twisted shape and inclined facades are dynamic features clearly distinguished from the traditional square angles of the original library building.

The link, a connecting walkway between the old and the new library, runs from the entrance hall in the Holmen building, through the 1968 Hansen building (named for Preben Hansen, Royal Building Inspector and architect), above Christians Brygge, through the atrium of the Diamond-right up to the harbor front.


Photo courtesy SHL


Photo courtesy SHL


Photo courtesy SHL


Photo courtesy SHL

The north/south axis provides a visual link between the different functions in the complex. Kirkeby painted a 210-square-meter mural which adorns the ceiling of the Lending Department Bridge.

The new main entrance to the library overlooks the new square, Søren Kierkegaards Plads, which is perpendicular to the north/south axis. Towards the Diamond, a cascading fountain, its stimulating sound marking the transition from the noisy traffic outside to the inner calm of the library, borders the square. In front of the Diamond, Søren Kierkegaards Plads continues to the new harbor promenade which, like the square, is laid with dark granite mosaic stones.

The overhang, as well as the height of the Foyer floor, is compressed to induce a forward motion towards the spacious Atrium. The Foyer is the new central space with cultural facilities open to the public.

Walking distances are kept short, with a rational flow through the building for both the staff and public. From the entrance level, “travelators” offer access to C level, the main floor of the library. This is where the new main building is linked to the original library buildings via an 18-meter-wide bridge above Christians Brygge. The interior of the Hansen building, which houses offices and service functions for various library departments, has been totally renovated, while the exterior has been adapted to the facade and geometry of the Diamond.

In contrast with the exterior of the Diamond, the Atrium is designed as an organic room in motion that cuts into the building. Wave-like balconies flank the 24-meter-high interior, skylights provide comfortable, indirect daylight for the Reading Rooms. The room is light and friendly, the movement is upwards. The Atrium opens up towards the harbor front, allowing views from the outside into the interior world of the library. From the Atrium, there is direct access to the bookshop, cafe/restaurant, and the Queens Hall, as well as to the exhibition galleries at levels K and B.

The Reading Rooms at levels C to F flank the Atrium in the form of double-height rooms with mezzanine balconies. Glass walls more than 6 meters high provide a sound screen between the Reading Rooms and the Atrium. The Reading Rooms have more than 300 seats that all face the Atrium, the light, and the water. Daylight plays an important role in the character of the spaces, coming from two angles-through a large skylight and from reflected light from the water outside.


Photo courtesy SHL


The “Fish” building has two stories plus a basement. It takes its shape from the site by following the curve of Christians Brygges and the harbor entrance. The contrasting colors and shapes of the Fish and the Diamond emphasize the independent existence of the two buildings.


Photo courtesy SHL


At night the Atrium stands out against the skyscape. The ribbons of light from the offices add an abstract touch to the facades. The sheet of glass cutting through the Diamond at the entrance level makes the building appear to float above ground.


CITY Copenhagen