2006 – National Library _ Prague Czech Republic
Program National Library
Floor area 54 000 m2
Place Letna, Prague, Czech Republic
Owner National Library of Czech Republic General Principles Studying in a book opened to the sky while resting on the hill of knowledge
A National Library contains country history and knowledge. It is also a place partly opened to every citizen. That is why, it can be one of the democratic symbol of a country.
A library should be a quite place which offers serenity; a place propitious to meditation. The idea is to create a functional space with its own qualities. The building should be expressive and visible in long distance. Once entered inside, visitors need to feel a special space both expressive and zen to study in a unique environment without being disturb.
People usually like to study in a park, in front of a mountain or by the sea because of the environment expression; so they should like to study or consult in the Czech Library also because of its unique atmosphere.
Global Design project
The program is made of two elements in one building: the ‘base’ and an expressive building: the ‘book’. The ‘interface’ between those tow buildings is a public space connected to the district.
1/ The ‘Base’
It is a building placed on the entire site’s area. It shapes the entire bloc. It consists of a deformation, a rising of the present ground. Accessible from different angles of the library bloc, the top of this base which is the roof of this ‘first’ building part is a public place. Under this public place, we find every private area: internal workplaces, stacks and parking. It consists of 4 levels (around 37000 square meters dispatch on 2 underground and 2 upper levels). The working places are on the upper level’s edge to take benefits of the natural light. The stacks and the other functions are concentrated in the centre and the underground levels. Plans of this base are very functional and flexible (beams and columns structure).
2/ The ‘Book’
On top of this public place base, there is another building about 120 meters long by 50 meters large that make a 40 degrees angle with the orthogonal base. This orientation offers visual connections in long distance with the Cathedral and the park axis which leads to the old town. It also creates a urban dynamic, a link between old and ‘new’ town.
This building, which could represent a book opened to the sky, contains the public accessible spaces (entrance hall, exhibition area, restaurant and reading rooms). A planted terrace is created on top of it. This ‘garden in the sky’ offers a unique panorama.
Inside, spaces could be opened or closed. They are fluid and flexible but original (see description further). The national archival collections rooms and stacks are in a distorted cubic volume that goes up and down this entire building. It is visible from both the inside and the outside.
3/ In between : a succession of public places
The ‘book’ divides the public space in tow different outside places. One in front of the avenue is planted with a few trees. It could be seen as an extension of the park in the town with the bookshop window in the back ground. The other in front of the park is only mineral. It is a place to sit and rest with a café terrace. Those two outside places are linked by the library entrance hall which stands as an inside public place.
Main circulation: Tow separate elevators blocs connect the base and the book; one is for the public transport and the other for the document transport
From town to reading rooms
The library is first in connection with the city and the park through its public places; but once the visitor enters, he is progressively extracted from city environment. He is prepared to take insight to enter in a place disconnected with the nearby environment but connected with Knowledge (network, books). The reading rooms are spaces favourable to study or research. They offer unique atmosphere with – among others – the combination of two perception planes and two kinds of natural light.
The 2 planes of perception
Two planes of perceptions are mixed. The horizontal plane created by the floors (different plate’s levels) and the oblique plane suggested by both the structure and the alternation of transparent and translucent material. They both invite to look up, through the sky.
The 2 kind of Natural light
The first kind is created by the translucent concrete; it procures a particular atmosphere often found in religious places. The second one comes from oblique glass wall opened to the outside which offers sky or far landscape views. This visual environment, which mixed ‘zen’ and sky view, is a good environment to immerse in knowledge.
Fluidity and flexibility
The inside plans offers fluidity and flexibilities, a feeling of liberty. Actually, each level is like a big plate fixed on the big structure. It is easy to organize. Each area (general and reference services, open stacks with study areas, reading rooms and archival collection) is compounded of different plates with their own characteristics (volume, height under cellar, light, view…) that are linked by ramp, or stairs (and elevators). There are no columns and no walls; the only vertical element is the national archival collections box which plays a jewels box role. On those plates, space could be easily transformed to create closed or opened rooms.
a new psychological plan. It also avoids using columns that go from top to ground and disturb the view. The ‘ductal’ concrete mesh is the only vertically structural element which is visible. It plays the role of an awing in front of the windows. It creates a shade game inside the building.
The project invites the spectator to experiment a space which like a book extracts him out of the town reality to bring him in a new space out of time (connection with the sky), propitious to meditation, to escape elsewhere… The visitor is disconnected with its daily routine and connected with spaces of knowledge through different networks such as book, computing networks…