Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen

Realdania

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The Interplay with the Urban Space

Design challenge: How do you create linking spaces between the library and the town? Earlier the library was typically located in the urban center or another place where people naturally came by. Today many libraries are rather placed with an eye to creating a new and vibrant area with new meeting places. Beneath here different examples on how to build bridge between the library and the city will be examined. 

Innovator of the Urban Space

Sant Gervasi - Joan Maragall Library Library in Barcelona exemplifies how a library can interact with and create new urban spaces. The library was built in connection with an old historic street that had been forgotten and seldom used, but after the opening of the library the old street has been enlivened. The library is integrated with an already existing civic center and its garden complex and new outdoor seating and wider pavements have been added. These initiatives have helped create a new cultural and recreational urban space where the locals meet.

The roof of the library is integrated as part of the garden of Vil∙la Florida. The garden, combined with benches and a new shopping street, has created a new public space. Photo: Ariel Ramírez.

Creating a connection between inner Library and outer Urban Space

The traditional public library has often been a delimited building serving one purpose only, but many modern public libraries are characterised by a connection to the urban spaces and by being positioned in interplay with other institutions. When space and settings allow it the library can choose to establish functions that link the inner library with the immediate outer urban space, or opt to pull the urban space into the library. In many places, the library is now connected to the city through arcades with cafes, small shops and rooms for local organisations. An example of this is Kista Library in Sweden situated in the shopping mall Kista Galleria. The library has a central location and offers among other things meeting rooms, digital solutions and materials in various languages to meet the area's many ethnicities and the innovative IT development that characterises the area.

Kista Library, Sweden.

The Café as Intermediary between the City and the Library

If spaces and settings inside and outside allow it, it may be meaningful establishing a café function that noticeably links the library and the city as in Canada Water Library in London. With a high level of transparency and places to stay both outside and inside, the library's cafe interacts with its immediate surroundings. If the transitions between outside and inside are effective, the café can constitute an important starting point for expeditions further into the library. Where the climate and weather permits it, different cultural events can be held here, too – on the border between library and town.

In Canada Water Library in London is the café Culture Café situated on the ground floor. The café is the first thing meeting the people entering from the water side. Thus the café acts as a welcoming arrival space, intended to attract users and invite to stay. 

Bringing the city into the Library: The Culture Stage in the City Square

The broken up urban square with the sunken stage space in front of and inside the new Birmingham Public Library, is a potent example on how the library uses the stage to invite the urban space's users to enjoy new experiences. It is not the book, but the experience, that is the hub in this invitation: Choir singing, piano concerts, beach volley, catwalks and fashion shows.

The library is designed to fulfil the goals of an eventful environment. More than 2.500 events are annually scheduled from small regular activities to big one-off events. The design of the inner and outer spaces of the library is crucial for delivering successful events. 

If one wants to increase the intensity of the experience and get closer, one have to walk through the library's ground floor. The ground floor retains to some extent the character of a covered urban square due to its informal meeting space. The large stage area makes it possible to be at eye level with one's experience and allows the library's other attractions to present themselves.

The escalator leads down to the outdoor stage. The user are on the way down presented with the library’s other offers.  

A challenge by an outdoor amphitheatre or a large stage is - even though the opposite is the intention - easily end up signalling absence of life and activity unless a high level activity is maintained. It is therefore important to create strong alliances with external partners about holding high quality events.

The connection between the library and the city is therefore achieved through interior design and architecture. If the library is successfully connected with the urban space, the result is with a good chance creating a vibrating area and at the same time attracting more visitors to the library.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or ideas about how libraries can contribute to creating life in urban spaces or to branding cities, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.

05. Jan 2017 at. 09:43

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