Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Case: Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, Centrale Bibliotheek (OBA)


Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA) is the most prominent place maker library in Europe, and with its 28,000 m2, it is also the largest so far. It forms part of the development of Oostersiland, a new city district near the Central Station in Amsterdam. The library, which was designed by Dutch architect Jo Coenen, was inaugurated in 2007. It was to pave the way for other partners in changing the former industrial harbour area into a mixed-use neighbourhood with a hotel, housing, shops and cultural institutions. The strategy has been successful, and OBA now attracts more than 6,000 visitors per day due to its opening hours from 10 am to 10 pm, 7 days a week, its exhibitions, stages for events and, not least, the good restaurant at the top of the building.

An inviting building

The library was designed by the internationally recognised Dutch architect Jo Coenen. The actual facade should be seen as an oversized bookcase in dark wood. The open square in front of the building serves as a transition zone, a living urban space with cafe life and performances, and the lower floors' transparency stresses the building's function as an open, public space. The influx of daylight, the many views in and out, and the consistent use of materials, design, light and colour make people want to go exploring and be in the space. With its minimalist and futurist ‘Mac style’ with frosted glass, glossy white bookcases, the many white light sculptures and the airy interior design with its lounge ambience and cafes, OBA appeals particularly to the young, creative Mac generation.

Many visitors bring along their own PCs and sit around the library in soft armchairs, on flat lounge sofas or in more funky workplaces. In all, there are 1,000 places to sit, and 300 of these have PC access. Whereas borrowers used to spend an average of half an hour at the old library, the average at the new OBA is an hour and a half. Some people stay all day and use the library as a workplace. After the opening of the new library, the number of visitors doubled to 1.8 million per year. As the library is open from 10 am to 8 pm, 360 days a year, visitors rarely arrive here in vain.

The library's core is the high-ceilinged, light atrium, which is surrounded by balconies with seating and workplaces and a view to life in the room. On the ground floor, there are newspapers, journals and a small cafe. From here, an illuminated escalator leads up to the different sections. On the first floor, there is a multimedia section, and the next four floors contain the many books that are still the core of the library. Each floor is distinctively laid out with white bookcases in different shapes and setups. Among these, open squares have been laid out, each with their own identity, e.g. the arts square or the hobby square.

At the top, the restaurant, La Place, offers a panoramic view across the old part of Amsterdam and a large selection of food to suit any taste, making it a trendy meeting place in the city. Here, you also find a lounge with a bar, a theatre, meeting rooms and a terrace.

The library as a stage

When speaking of OBA as an experience place, it is mainly the many exhibitions and stages that stand out. To the right of the entrance, there is a large exhibition area with changing exhibitions and a permanent museum for a famous Dutch writer. Up through the building, a large number of glass display cases feature theme exhibitions linked to the sections' materials, and the library continually stages topical installations.

The library also serves as a stage. In addition to the large theatre that seats 275 on the top floor and the children's library with 40 seats, a number of smaller stages have been set up in the different sections. The film section, for instance, features the Cinematheque, and the literature section has an open stage for writers' events and other live events, including recording of the radio programme ‘OBA Live’. When the stages are not actively in use, they serve as islands for peace and quiet and reflection.

The library as a place maker in a mixed-use district

Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam is part of the development of an entirely new city district at the heart of Amsterdam near the Central Station and the historic centre. The area is a part of the city's harbour, which was emptied of its functions in the 1960s and 70s, when new supertankers and container traffic made the harbour obsolete. The eastern harbour area was relatively isolated, and the goal was to open the area in relation to the rest of the city. In 1995, the city council passed a policy paper: Oosterdok was to be developed into a multi-faceted urban life with offices and housing supplemented by an international hotel, shops, restaurants and cultural institutions. The new library was to be a place maker here, which would attract visitors to the district, an intention that has been highly successful. OBA attracts about 5,000 visitors per day on weekdays, and more than 7,000 per day during weekends, which makes it one of the busiest places in Amsterdam.

18. Sep 2017 at. 13:44

The dialogbox begins her. You can click on Accept cookies button or Enter button to close the box. The button is the last element in the box.

Accept of cookies

We use cookies on to improve our website so to meet the needs of our users. We use, among other things cookies to keep statistics about the traffic on the page so we can make sure that the content is relevant and easy to find. You may at any time delete cookies from 

Read more about cookies on
Cookie and privacy policy

(dialog box ends)