Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Case: Sant Gervasi - Joan Maragall Library

The Sant Gervasi – Joan Maragall Library exemplifies how a public library can interplay with the surrounding urban space. The shape of the building is integrated into the streetscape and new urban spaces are created between the already existing buildings and the new library.


On the 19th of June 2014 the Sant Gervasi - Joan Maragall Library was inaugurated in Barcelona. The library is part of Biblioteques de Barcelona (Libraries of Barcelona), the city's public library network, and coordinates the libraries in the Sarrià - Sant Gervasi district of Barcelona. The library is designed by BCQ arquitectura barcelona and half of the library is located below ground beneath the garden of Vil∙la Florida, an old aristocratic house which has been turned into a public civic center. The library, Vil∙la Florida and the garden complex create a new cultural and recreational center where local residents can come together.

The cross-sectional drawing illustrates how half of the library is located below ground under the garden of Vil∙la Florida. Drawing: BCQ arquitectura barcelona

Preservation and renewal

The library's roof is made into a garden and is situated at the same level as the garden of the old Vil·la Florida. One of the project's most important challenges was maintaining some of the existing trees in this area of the garden. Visitors access the library from one of the main streets in the neighborhood's old district. The library's entrance area combined with the street's redevelopment and wider pavements have created a new pedestrian main street that contributes to enlivening the space between the buildings. Thus, to a certain extent the construction of the library has helped to regenerate a historic street that had been forgotten and the library has become an architectural benchmark in Barcelona.

The roof of the Sant Gervasi - Joan Maragall is also the garden of the old Vil∙la Florida. The surrounding areas with benches and a pedestrian street have created a new public space. Photo: Ariel Ramírez.

Light and inviting

The library has two levels. On the ground access floor the reception area is located and this floor functions as a meeting point that connects the interior with the street. It contains the magazines, the movie and music collections as well as the children's section. The underground floor, with three large window shafts for light and ventilation, houses most of the collection, the multimedia space, the multipurpose space and the shelving area. It has been important to the library to create luminous spaces when half of the building is situated below ground. Thus the library has several large glass facades that create well-lit spaces and invite people from outside to visit the library.

The library is divided into two floors. Large window shafts create well-lit rooms inside and invites and welcomes people from outside. Photo: Ariel Ramírez.

A homely feeling

It has been essential to the library to create comfortable and peaceful reading spaces to obtain a domestic atmosphere with room for absorption. The library's interior is decorated with smooth white and dark-brown ceramics. Terracotta, one of the vertical interior coverings, is an allegory to the fact that the building was literally dug out of the soil. It also helps to maintain stable interior temperatures, achieving a notable degree of energy efficiency for heating the building in the winter and cooling the building in the summer.

18. Sep 2017 at. 13:45

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