Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Case: Boekenberg Bibliotheek, Spijkenisse


Spijkenisse is a Dutch ‘new town’ located by the river Oude, close to Rotterdam. The town has medieval roots as a village and has served as town and market for an area characterised by agriculture and fishing, but seems to lack particularly distinctive features. One explanation may be that the town's growth into a new, modern town has taken place within the last 40 years. However, a completely new library (opened in October 2012) has placed the town on the map because the library controversially stakes on the book in its profile, calling itself ‘the Book Mountain’.

Literally a book mountain

The new library's display of books in a gigantic book mountain is highly alternative in style, because it gathers the books in a sculptural mountain shape with a clear visual effect that signals: There is an incredible amount of books here! It thereby makes a virtue of something that other libraries are trying to move away from, i.e. the library's massive, heavy book profile. However, at the same time the library breaks with the classical library's dusty image by being built as a glass pyramid, which allows plenty of sunlight to reach the books.

The sculptural effect and the intention are stressed by the fact that the book mountain is visible from the street, because the library building is shaped like a glass pyramid that shows the massive book presentation. The illuminated book mountain is intended as proactive marketing and an invitation to read. In a library context, it is controversial to let the arrangement of books be determined by a sculptural effect.

The construction of the library was initiated 10 years ago, but it was delayed several years due to preservation problems. The library is inspired by the library in Stuttgart, and it has followed the 10-year-old intentions consistently. About 40 % of the library's books are included as pure decoration, placed so high up that they cannot be reached.

The mountain concept is followed consistently in the concrete arrangement of the books, which are placed on tall bookcases on landings and with floors that are connected by stairs, so that it is possible to walk 480 metres continually upwards, around and into the mountain. The walk ends at the top of the mountain where there is a cafe with a panoramic view across the city.

The glass building is based on new technology that utilises the heat during summer, and a special underfloor heating system that heats the building during winter. The effect of this system, which is marketed as a ‘prize-winning eco design’ is a pleasant indoor climate, which is experienced almost as a summery outdoor climate.

The library is connected to an educational centre, which includes a lecture hall and meeting rooms in addition to the library; the building also contains club facilities.

The library in the city

The library is located at the centre of the city in what is now called the Library District, a district that was drawn and planned as a whole by MRVDV Architects. The newly built district uses very clear references in the brick buildings to mark the relationship to the city's traditional fisherman's house architecture and to the classical Dutch farm. The library has been constructed with the same stylistic traits, roof pitch and proportions, but it marks its special and symbolic function by having a glass roof shaped as a pyramid. In addition to the library, the library district includes, among other things, social housing, a multi-storey car park and an open public space.

The book mountain is particularly visible from the marketplace. It has been placed effectively as a neighbour to the town's historic church. The symbolic building should be seen in the light of the fact that the town does not have any particular library or book traditions. On the contrary, the town is known for having a high proportion of illiterates, who make up 10 % of the town's inhabitants.

18. Sep 2017 at. 14:00

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