October 7, 2014

Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta is designing impressive modern libraries worldwide

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A rendering of Calgary’s New Central Library and Library Plaza designed by Snøhetta and DIALOG.

An architecture and design firm called Snøhetta, with offices based in Oslo, New York, San Francisco, and is bring modern architecture and the ability to tie a design to the natural landscape as well as the history and future possibilities of reading and meeting space to their rendering of libraries throughout the world.

Their most recent project was made public last week. The city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada has announced plans for a new Central Public Library designed by both, Snøhetta and Dialog, and architecture firm based in Calgary. The winning team emerged from a shortlist of four finalists selected by the city of Calgary from 38 submissions. Input was also solicited from the public to help decide how design components will align to community use and needs.

“Calgarians responded with enthusiasm, passion and pride,” stated Janet Hutchinson, Calgary Public Library Board Chair, after conducting a 6-month public engagement program. “They clearly see their libraries as essential parts of a complete community, and their collective input will be a rich source of inspiration for the project team. ”

One of Snøhetta’s first projects was a library in Alexandria, Egypt:

Conceived as a revival of the ancient library in the city founded by Alexander the Great some 2300 years ago and lost to civilization centuries later, the new Alexandria Library is a contemporary design that will contribute meaningfully to students, researchers and the public. The design of the new library is both timeless and bold. Its vast circular form alongside the circular Alexandrian harbor recalls the cyclical nature of knowledge, fluid throughout time. It’s glistening, tilting roof recalls the ancient Alexandrian lighthouse and provides the city with a new symbol for learning and culture.

The design plans for the library in Calgary reflects the city’s typography, allows for a light rail to run through the middle of the building, and is also engaged in a forward-thinking conception of what a library can be designed to provide in a modern age.

The design team embraced the city’s diverse urban culture and unique climate, striving to create the right library for Calgary by establishing a vibrant, welcoming and accessible public space in the heart of this rapidly expanding metropolis… Inspired by the nearby foothills, the site is transformed into a terraced topography that rises up and over the existing Light Rail Transit Line crossing the site…. The façade utilizes a unique geometry and distribution of clear and fritted glass openings to control desired daylight levels for the interior spaces. Dramatic, highly transparent zones attract public interest to activities inside, while closed areas provide more focused study spaces.

Snøhetta's rendering for the new public library in Far Rockaway.

Snøhetta’s rendering for the new public library in Far Rockaway.

Fast Company is calling the Calgary design a sign of what a library of the future can be, referring to it as “the Apple store of libraries.”  Snøhetta has also designed libraries in Raleigh, North Carolina (the James B. Hunt Jr. Library), Far Rockaway in Queens (expected completion is scheduled for 2016), and developed a very interesting proposal for a library in Norway (“The proposal portrays the library as a public, interior space, generated by the complex relationship of singular and plural needs of the users rather than the specificity of its exterior shape.”)

Construction for the Calgary Public Library is expected to start this year, with an opening date of 2018.

Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.

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