Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen




Dokk1 is a cultural centre located by Aarhus Harbour, which contains both the city's main library and Citizen Service. The actual users have been important players in relation to the interior design of the building, and the result is a dynamic library intended to last at least 100 years.


Dokk1 is a cultural centre featuring the main library and the Citizen Service centre of the City of Aarhus in Denmark. The library opened in June 2015, and within just nine months, the number of visitors exceeded 1 million. The building has been through a lengthy creation process where focus through all stages has been on citizen and user inclusion. Read more about the inclusion of users in the construction process in this text, and about user inclusion in connection with minor alterations in this thematic case description of Vesthimmerland's Libraries.

The inclusion has taken place through events such as a summer school, a World Café and Village Square, prototyping, master classes and phototyping. All of this has contributed to the elaboration of a set of values for the building, a vision about creating a place for human development and interaction, and the naming and interior design of the building.

The clear-cut purpose of including the users has been to gather sufficient information to be able to build a good library in keeping with the times. Users were included in many ways: as stakeholders, focus groups and representatives for special user groups and different subject disciplines, as staff, interested citizens, children and parents, experts and particularly knowledgeable people.

The users' dedication and inputs have been decisive for the design of Dokk1. Here, a group of users during a brainstorming session.

Human needs

When building a house that is intended to survive for at least 100 years, it is an important prerequisite that the project is based on human needs, which are relatively unchangeable. Inspiring spaces, appealing aesthetics, a variety of places to stay, good acoustics, a well-regulated indoor climate, good incident light, and a pleasant temperature, good views and flexible layout options are always qualities that must be given significant consideration as planning elements.

The large windows offer the users a fantastic view of the docklands.

Taking present day's media use (books, information technology) as the sole starting point for the design of the building would have been problematic, as nobody knows the status of books or how technology will have developed in 15 years' time. A narrow-minded focus on the current functionality could result in the building becoming obsolete far too quickly.

The old library sign from the former Aarhus Municipal Main Library was brought along during the move and now adorns the wall at the Dokk1 cultural centre.

Families and children

One important result of the inclusion process is the special area for families and children, which has had an overwhelmingly positive reception from the citizens. With a clear focus on play as a valuable activity – i.e. not only as a tool for learning or social education, but as a cultural life statement fully on a par with literary or artistic experiences – the area has successfully attracted many families.

Unlike a traditional children's library, this space is not set up solely for children to learn/experience. It is a distinctive feature of the area that it is intended for children and their families to experience together.

Gaming Street contains a number of different games, while Æsken (The Box) is the opposite of a reading room: in Æsken, you are allowed to be noisy – it is soundproofed! Space has also been allocated to more learning-focused activities in the BørneLab (Children's Lab) and the TweensLab. Maker fairs and hacker labs are also recurrent activities across Dokk1.

The Kloden (Planet) playground on the deck that runs the full length around the building. The playground is built as a compass, and the large American eagle in the photo sits on the western side of the deck.


A distinctive and significant co-production takes place every single day at Dokk1. Through partnerships, it is possible to retain a very high level of events with a relatively modest staff effort. More than 70 partnership agreements have been made with NGOs, associations, educational institutions and other public service providers.

In the years leading up to the opening of Dokk1, relevant players were mapped, and the main library subsequently conducted a number of 'disruption conversations' with potential partners. The purpose was to gain a clearer understanding of what needs players saw in the surrounding society, spotting trends in other organisations' user groups, creating a dialogue, and making Dokk1's potentials clear to untraditional partners across the city. The project was successful beyond all expectations – every week there are now between 35 and 45 different activities and events at Dokk1, most often with the inclusion of partners.

Unprogrammed space

The library welcomes and provides space for experiments. The old library included an open area right by the entrance, called Transformation Lab. The idea was to have an area that could accommodate temporary set-ups and experiments in collaboration with partners, confronting users with ideas that could be tested immediately, often with due documentation and follow-up via partners and researchers.

At Dokk1, there are several areas that have not been pre-programmed, but which can be used flexibly. Torvet (The Open Square) by the entrance is one such area, which can be used for exhibitions and events. Other areas include a 'transformation space' in the north-facing part of the building, and event areas in Hjørnet (The Corner), on Rampen (The Ramp), above Rampen, by Scenetrappen (The Stage Staircase) and in the Tweens area in the Families and Children section. When these areas are not in use for specific events, they are used for people to relax, read or study.

18. Sep 2017 at. 13:30

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