PRAGUE (CZ) - The architects of Projektil Architekti Studio have given Prague a library building with an unmistakable shape – a spherical square.
At the juncture of every building epoch in Prague's Dejvice district, the university has built a new Technical Library. Projektil Architekti Studio won the architectural competition back in 2000, but it was not until this year that the building was completed. In the competition design (see A10 #14) the project consisted of a library building and a separate multi-storey car park (which has yet to be built). In accordance with the competition rules, 30% of the building plot was left vacant.
The Technical Library is a monolithic volume hermetically encased in a translucent glass facade. At ground level, the enclosing shell is fully transparent and perforated on all four sides by recessed entrances. In form, the building is a prism sitting on a spherical-square plan. The architects chose this shape because it creates a feeling of protection and concentration. Orientation inside the library is facilitated by a top-lit, longitudinal vestibule through the middle of the building. Services are located on a lower level of the vestibule (on the mezzanine floor). Each of the middle three floors houses sections where people are free to take books from the shelves, and general reading rooms. Individual reading rooms and open courtyards are found on the top floor above the vestibule roof. The three underground floors of the building serve as a book depository and car park.
The architects have given the building a straightforward appearance, with all of its structures and surfaces clearly exposed. Visitors to the library are aware of this at every turn, whether they are looking at the structure from the outside or walking around the interior or using its furniture. Original touches include the tied columns holding the ground floor ceiling slab from above and transferring its weight to the higher floor by means of special tension rods concealed within the columns. Thanks to this strategy, the ground floor area is a single, unpartitioned space. The structural spans are 14.5 by 14.5 metres.
It is common knowledge that architects like to work with artists. This is also apparent here, especially in the vestibule. The paintings on the walls and concrete elements are reminiscent of frescoes, but their conception is decidedly modern, not unlike graffiti. There are other graphical interventions, too, such as the white vertical and horizontal lines on the exterior recording the building's dimensions for all to see. Inside, the library floors are painted in a variety of colours that reflect the anticipated intensity of traffic.
The architects are also environmentally aware and for this reason energy efficiency played an important role in the design. The building is so shaped to produce the smallest acceptable surface area, thereby reducing thermal loss. The building also has a double facade so that air, heated by the sun, can freely circulate in the gap between the two facade layers. In this way, the shell of the building not only separates internal and external environment but also plays an active part in decreasing the building's energy requirements all year round.
September | 2009 | Czech Republic | Alexandr Skalický