Staging can also be of a more architectural, aesthetic character – spaces that create a special mood or atmosphere. The large glass facades in Henning Larsen’s extension to Malmö City Library, ‘Ljusets Kalender’ (the Calendar of Light) make use of the day’s and the season’s changes to create an almost sacred space that reminds us of life’s changeability.
At a number of Dutch libraries, they are working on a segmentation of users based on a market concept. At Nieuwe Bibliotheek in Almere, which is practically arranged as a bookshop, there are zones such as ‘high tension’ with thrills and marketing books (particularly) aimed at men, and the area ‘lifestyle’, which addresses women in particular, and which is placed next to the toddler zone. The concept is also very evident through a clear and visible signage of the different zones so that users – or customers – can easily find their ‘niche’.
The inspiration space needs to make it possible both for more purposeful users to serve themselves and for ‘grazing’ users with more time available to find inspiration for new experiences. In principle, one does not exclude the other: The more purposeful user can also be tempted by the unexpected, just as the shopping, seeking user can feel safer in a library space that is laid out in a clear way. In this context, it is also possible to distinguish between the user who is familiar with libraries and the user who is a stranger to libraries.
At the main library in Hjørring, a colourful and labyrinthine design hints at the medieval town’s numerous winding streets. The space itself makes you want to go exploring, either by following the red ribbon that winds its way through the large one-room library, or by taking a look into one of the small niches that contain new surprises.
The Calendar of Light hall at Malmö City Library converted into an events hall. Photo: Malmö City Library
Visitors at Ørestad Library can activate an overview of the floor plan and functions at the library. Photo: Signal Architects
At Aalborg Main Library, they work with a number of clearly defined spaces: the Oasis, which exposes fiction and invites people to take time to immerse themselves; the Pulse, which exposes the highly topical; the Stage, where films and music are played and where there are different kinds of performance; the Workshop, which inspires citizens to creative activity; and the Laboratory, which offers inspiring learning within IT. The Zone is a special area where the principle of serendipity is unfolded by mixing all kinds of media in unexpected ways – the current, the classical, the nerdy and the popular.
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The library’s interior design is to support a clear and accessible communication of materials. This can be supported by dividing the library into various zones. The layout and furniture should also support serendipity, i.e. possibilities of ‘stumbling on’ something new.
Finally, the cool, white Mac style at Amsterdam’s OBA can appear as a slightly ironic comment to the vision of a future IT-driven society. A story which the interior design itself contradicts through many small, often historical exhibitions in display cases and other exhibition objects, such as a vintage motorcycle.
OBA in Amsterdam has an auditorium and a number of smaller stages. Photo: Signal Architects
At Peckham Library in London, the large organic structures in the space form a contrast to the library’s straight lines. The structures, which are clad in light wood, resemble large seed pods, and the space takes on a fairytale-like and warm expression, which is stressed by red carpets. The organic structures also serve as meeting rooms for small meetings and as playrooms for children.
LitteraturStedet (the Literature Place) at Åby Library by Aarhus has created a space within the library where the communication of fiction takes centre stage. For this purpose, a special piece of furniture has been made on which books and other objects can be displayed and literature can be communicated digitally via one large and two smaller screens. The piece of furniture also contains a small stage and a meeting place. In connection with the special piece of furniture, a small collection of small-press publications has been established. The stage is used for thematic exhibitions and events with professional literary players, and the audience is involved, as the stage is made available for local literary players’ and the library’s own ‘open-the-book’ events.
The Living Room greenhouse at Seattle Public Library. Photo:
Clear signage, overview maps, references and other spatial markers that make it easier to find what you are looking for can also stimulate users’ curiosity. Serendipity is also supported by cross-contacts across subjects, materials, genres, media, activities and spaces.
If you have examples or ideas of how spaces and interior design can invite users to enjoy new experiences at libraries, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.
In order to accommodate the more unfamiliar user, the personnel at a number of Finnish libraries have switched from ‘sitting and waiting’ to ‘walking and talking’, so that the uniformed librarians now meet the users at eye level. At Ørestad Library, the personnel mingle with the users, carrying iPads.
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.. Jiangshan Fishing Village Renewal / Mix Architecture City Library Rottenburg / harris + kurrle architekten bda City Library Heidenheim / Max Dudler Finnish Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale to Examine the Fu.
.. ASA Lanna Center / Somdoon Architects New Library in Former Industrial Area / Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia Beyond the Viral Images: Inside MVRDV’s Tianjin Binhai Library… Bay Book House (BaBH) San Francisco Competition Pico Branch Library / Koning Eizenberg Architecture A Plane That Skidded Off Its Runway Could Become A Turkish Cit.
.. Open Call: Learning Resource Center Design Competition Goertek Green Town – Time Books / Qingdao Greentown Architectu… Lattice Book House / Scenic Architecture Office Palmetto Library / Houser Walker Architecture Spring Whispers Book Club / FON STUDIO Redcliffs Village Library / Young Architects Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter Reveals Runner-Up Southmere Village .
.. Kew Gardens Hills Library / WORKac Northside Library / NBBJ
Library space used as a stage for events. Here, Lyngby Public Library is used as a setting for a large fashion show of remade second-hand clothes. A podium has been set up as a catwalk through the library’s main axis.
At Malmö City Library, the large hall, the Calendar of Light, can quickly be converted into an events hall with room for 250 participants by simply moving away the wheeled bookcases. Everything from a presentation of world literature to Chinese New Year with the Peking Opera can take place here.
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Most large libraries have had a meeting hall available for events for many years. The current trend is that library spaces in themselves serve as a stage for events, and that more delimited, large or small stages are integrated into the space. The first is the case e.g. at Lyngby Public Library’s large fashion show featuring remade second-hand clothes (see box).
Subjects, materials, genres, media, activities and spaces. Photos:
Many large or small places to stay or sit encourage exploration and concentrated immersion. Photo: Signal Architects
The red ribbon at Hjørring Library encourages experiences. Photo: Hjørring Library
The Experience Library in Cerittos close to Los Angeles has used time travel as its theme in order to speak the same language as the nearby Disney World and thus cater to users who are strangers to libraries. The children’s library is staged within the theme ‘Save the Planet’ with a life-like Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, an artificial rainforest tree and a huge saltwater aquarium.
The library space is to inspire and arouse curiosity through interactive and vivid communication of its offers. At Aarhus Main Library, the project ‘Forvandlingsrum’ (Transformation Space) has explored new possibilities of involving users in the space. However, the space can also be an experience in itself by means of light, sound and staging that engage participants physically and sensuously in the space. At the Dutch state-of-the-art library in Floriande, the light can be changed in accordance with the required mood.
The contrast between the IT-driven society and ancient history. OBA, Amsterdam. Photo: Signal Architects
Skift tekststørrelsePrint The Library as an Inspiration Space
Amsterdam’s Openbare Bibliothek (OBA) has an auditorium with seating for 275 as well as a number of smaller stages and exhibition places around the library. The film section includes the Cinematheque, and the literature section has an open stage for writers’ events.
At De Nieuwe Bibliotheek in Almere, they work with clear markings of themes. Here, the material group ‘Thrills’ is indicated by means of high voltage masts. Photo: Signal Architects
The Experience Library’s children’s library with the theme ‘Save the planet’. Photo:
Read more about the design principles in connection with library spaces here.
In Hjørring, the red ribbon, which winds its way through the library like blood veins, creates a cohesive story that is to inspire users to see new possibilities and enter into dialogue with the surroundings. Signage in the floor and on the walls provides clear guidance; The Rentemestervej Library uses both. At Ørestad Library, the first thing that meets the user is an interactive floor plan for the library. Selected points on the map show the library’s offers as film, text and images, and by pressing the screen, users get a description of what they can find and where.
Today, architects, designers and artists increasingly work on creating an ambience, an atmosphere and experiences in relation to a space’s use and the target group that it addresses. This may be, as can be seen at the new main library Openbare Bibliotheek in Amsterdam (OBA), a cool ‘Mac library’, which is to appeal particularly to the creative class, or by contrast, a warm, inclusive space that will make unfamiliar users feel at home, as seen in Peckham in London or at Garaget in Malmö.
Serendipity is about making room for the unexpected so that users find inspiration for new experiences (Bjørneborn 2008). This can be achieved by creating many different routes through the library as seen e.g. at Hjørring Library (see above). In this way, the space encourages exploration and makes it possible to discover new offers along the way. The Dutch libraries in Almere and Spijkenisse are also laid out with inspiration routes so that people can wander around the library and move through different zones.
A certain level of disorder – whether created by personnel or by users – makes people want to turn pages or take a closer look. Page-turning troughs or exhibition podiums can keep the ‘mess’ in order.
One of the library’s key missions is to give its users new, meaningful experiences through storytelling and artistic expressions within literature, film, music, games, events etc. In addition to surprising and inspiring, the inspiration space also needs to put the experiences into a context, creating a visible connection between different media and media platforms. Thus, the library’s inspiration space needs to tell stories and be communicative and changeable.
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Roskilde Library has set up an exhibition zone with digital works and interactivity in relation to the project ‘Litteraturen finder sted’ (Literature Happens): The user must do something to the work in order for it to make sense. Here, you have to be active in order for a poem to be created.
Many large or small places to stay or sit encourage exploration and concentrated immersion.
Seattle Public Library’s over-sized ‘Living Room’, on the other hand, bears resemblance to a colossal greenhouse, a reminder of the library’s role as a light and a life-giving place for the spirit to grow.