Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen

Realdania

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MedaTeca – a cultural hub for a small town in northern Italy

Photo: Marco Introini.

A new Cultural Hub for a small town

The MedaTeca is the public library of Meda (a small town near Milan), designed by Alterstudio Partners (Milan), and it is a modern cultural hub of more than 1,900 sq. m. entirely devoted to culture, information and leisure, with an architectural image of strong communicativeness.

A lot of people use the library to read, study and hang out during the day. Photo: Elisabetta Brian.

The library opened in 2012 and was an instant success. Although the city of Meda counts 23.000 inhabitants, one year after the opening there were almost 10.000 loans every month (more than 80% of loans than before), and more than 700 users every day, up to 1.000 on some days.

Photo: Elisabetta Brian.

Much more than a library, the MedaTeca is first of all a “Third Place” for the city and the district, a “social catalyst” for the local community to attend not only to borrow a book or a dvd, but also to meet up, go deep into ones’ interests and hobbies and discover new ones, drink a cup of coffee listening to the music, keep up with what happened in the district and the world, surfing the internet, watch a movie, research or study, attend cultural events, or spend enjoyable hours with friends and children, even the youngest, or take a class during spare time.

Inside the MedaTeca

The MedaTeca is part of “BrianzaBiblioteche”, a network of more than 30 libraries with a catalogue of more than one million volumes. Currently at MedaTeca there are more than 40 thousands books available, that can be borrowed and returned by users also through the automate loan system.

The large windows provide plenty of daylight in the library. Photo: Marco Introini.

In MedaTeca it is possible to surf the web on ones’ own pc or smart phone thanks to the free Wi-Fi connection, use the internet point, or consult the Online Media Library, a rich database of multimedia contents (newspapers, e-books, music and audio books). There is a magazines and newspapers’ area and a refreshment corner. 

Newspaper and magazine reading room. Photo: Marco Introini.

An entire floor is devoted to kids, with a lot of surprises for the youngest (0-5 years) and several supplies and commodities for parents (bottle warmer, changing table and new born baby’s chair in every bathroom, etc.).

There are silent and fully equipped study hall, meeting- and class rooms; a space for teenagers and cinema, hobby and free time sections; a polyvalent area for exhibitions, events and conferences, the Job Desk and the Cultural Office. In the whole library there are lamps, chairs and armchairs of all kinds, which create several cosy-corners suitable for reading, resting or taking a break.

The building and the architecture

The construction of the MedaTeca has been the occasion to restore, transform and expand the two- storey existent ugly building, remained unfinished and abandoned for twenty years, but with the advantage of being in a central position and a property of the local municipality. 

Before and after building the new library. Photo: Alterstudio Partners.

Despite having to consider the limitation imposed by the existing conditions, including the dimension of the site and the structure (pillars, lift shafts and staircases), the design has completely re-shaped the existing building and its envelope, redoubling its volumes and modifying its façades and the interiors, despite limiting to a minimum any demolition work of the existing building, because of the low budget.

Architectural drawing. Photo: Alterstudio Partners.

The result is a contemporary architecture in which everything tries to communicate the building’s “public vocation” as an “urban condenser”, and especially the design, materials and colours of the façades and the wide windows overlooking the street. The large double-height full-length windows permit to observe the library from the outside, marked by upright sunscreens and curtains that, if needed, colour the full-length windows and confer the library peculiar chromatic effects. 

Architectural drawing. Photo: Alterstudio Partners.

Functional design and internal flexibility

As all floors have a small surface area, five levels were needed to develop the structure: to make up for this unfortunate internal articulation and to invite users to explore the whole building, each floor overlooks the adjacent ones and there are double-height spaces with overhead lighting. 

Overhead lighting makes the library bright despite the many floors. Photo: Marco Introini.

The entrance area is located on ground floor and the first underground level. Here we find the newly published books, magazines and newspaper, music and performing arts, some topical issues; the first floor hosts the children’s section; open-shelf areas and reading spaces occupy the second and third floor; at the second underground level there is a conference and party hall and a warehouse. The building is completed by a study room on the first underground floor and a panoramic reading terrace. 

Each floor overlooks the adjacent one, which makes the library seem more open. Photo: Marco Introini.

The internal organization of the library is so flexible that it is possible to keep each part of it independently open, including terrace and study hall, hence allowing access to particular areas, even when the rest of the building is closed. The spaces are bright and comfortable: double-height rooms and views between one floor and the other arouse curiosity in the visitor and spur him to visit the entire building. 

A skylight gives light to the double-height central space, on the open shelves levels, giving spaciousness and brightness and creating a sort of vertical piazza. Photo: Alterstudio Partners.

Technical solutions and furniture

The façades are made with burgundy aluminium sheet and it has been designed and engineered specifically for this project, with high performance insulating board backwards, integrating of curtain walling system with ventilated perimeter gaps.

Photo: Alterstudio Partners.

Great attention has been paid to energy saving, with regard to the technological solutions (heat pump system and low energy lighting) as well as to the technical specifics of the façades and doors and windows.

The furniture, also designed by Alterstudio Partners, provides extremely comfortable and high quality solutions, combining ad-hoc designed furniture with pieces from the best Italian an International design, among them some donated by Artemide and B&B Italia, two important Italian brands, that have believed in this project and desired to be sponsors of the new cultural hub.

The furniture is also designed by Alterstudio Partners. Photo: Alterstudio Partners.

All this is completed by a system of visual communication (logo, graphic, inner signposting) that contributes to characterize the MedaTeca strengthening its identity. Same strategy has been used in this case on Grønlandstorv Library.

High quality, low budget

Architecture and furniture quality, flexibility, energy saving: these are the key words of the MedaTeca building. The accuracy of the design and of construction supervision let to control and reduced costs and construction time. The cost of the building construction for MedaTeca has been of 1.980.000 euro (Vat included), against the initial estimate of 2.300.000 euro, equal to the unit cost of about 1.040 euro/sq. m. Vat included. 

Photo: Marco Introini.

Although the low budget, the MedaTeca has high quality both from the technical and the aesthetic point of view, and the building has been selected between the finalist projects for the Gold Medal to the Italian Architecture 2012. 

Photo: Marco Introini.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have any comments to this case, or if you have a library or a similar institution in Denmark or another country that you think, would provide other public libraries with inspiration for new interior design and layout solutions, please feel free to contribute via our Facebook group.

07. Aug 2017 at. 14:18

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