The Royal Library is one of the most significant architectural landmarks on the Copenhagen waterfront. Clad in black granite, the building is known as the ‘Black Diamond’ – with its clean-cut lines and glittering polished surfaces, the library is now recognised as one of Copenhagens’ architectural gems.
The new building marks a radical shift from the traditional library structure and accommodates a range of cultural facilities. The Royal Library is situated in the historic heart of Copenhagen, and has proved to be a catalyst for the subsequent construction boom along the Copenhagen waterfront in recent years. The new library’s immediate context is a backdrop of important historical buildings such as the Danish Parliament, Christiansborg Palace, The Danish State Archives,Thorvaldsen’s Museum, the Danish Jewish Museum and King Christian IV’s elegant Stock Exchange building, the latter dating to the early 17th century.
A new kind of library
With its compact form and strikingly spare exterior, the new building perfectly expresses its cultural significance, while at the same time being open and approachable.
The Royal Library is much more than a library. It is a cultural institution that unites the function of a library with a whole range of different cultural facilities: a café, bookshop, exhibition room, restaurant, scientific and literary institutions, roof terrace and a 600-seat hall for concerts, theatrical performances and conferences. The new building has doubled the Library’s overall size – the open shelves can accommodate more than 200,000 books compared to the previous capacity of 45,000. And where there used to be only one single reading room, there are now six with a total of 486 seats.
The juxtaposition of old and new
The new building is skilfully linked to the old library building, which dates back to 1906. The physical contrasts between old and new buildings highlight the importance of Denmark’s cultural heritage and the country’s aspiration to be a leading player in 21st century Europe.
The movement and asymmetry of schmidt hammer lassen’s design provides a dramatic counterpoise to the earlier library, the two elements linked by a clear axis running from the former vestibule of the old building, now enhanced with a striking artwork by Per Kierkeby, through the vast atrium of the new building and out onto the water’s edge.
A building of contrasts and drama
The building has seven storeys plus a basement. The solid black cube is divided in two by a central glazed section, the atrium, housing the majority of public functions. The atrium and the public area is naturally ventilated. Interrupting the imposing mass of the façade, this glazed section reveals the dynamic interior filled with movement and life.
With its interweaving staircases and walkways, as well as a succession of curved walls, the vast open atrium space forms the natural centrepiece of the building. At the same time it also serves as a significant source of daylight which is gathered and dispersed throughout the building.
The mass of the new building appears to float above the water on a ribbon of glass, raised above the ground. This ground level strip of clear glazing brings daylight deep into the entrance level of the main foyer while also affording panoramic views of the entire waterfront from within.
The building’s form appears to be a cube, but in reality is rectangular. Adding to the building’s geometric drama, the scheme incorporates a major road – the Christians Brygge – which runs parallel with the waterfront. This busy thoroughfare is treated as a glazed canyon slicing through the base of the building.
schmidt hammer lassen’s new development has created a facility appropriate for 21st century use as well as creating one of the city’s most important civic amenities.
Project Facts and Credits:
The Architecture Prize of the Municipality of Copenhagen 2000
Nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award 2000
Nykredit’s architecture prize 2001
Du Pont Benedictus Award 2003
Client: Ministry of Culture
Engineer: Moe & Brødsgaard A/S
Acoustic advisor: Anders Gade.
Competition Year: 1993 – 1st Prize
Build area: New construction 21.000 m2, conversion 7.000 m2
Construction period: 1995-99
Construction: In situ cast concrete columns and walls, steel structure façade. Large steel joist, which in itself weighs one ton per metre, carries the prestressed and transparent façade. Push rods and traction cables.
Materials: High polished “Absolute Black” granite facade from Zimbabwe, natural sandstone, glass, maple wood floors, black painted maple panels in concert hall.
Office for Metropolitan Architecture's Seattle Central Library
Architect Rem Koolhaas of The Office for Metropolitan Architecture
(OMA) designed a definite city Landmark. The Seattle Central Library is
a delightful experience rich with volumes and spaces that reveal
themselves differently depending on the position they are viewed from.
Interesting to know that the main form givers are the functionality of
the Library and the site restrictions.
Machado and Silvetti - Boston Public Library Allston Branch
The new Boston Public Library Allston Branch by Machado and Silvetti
Associates is one of twenty-seven branches in the city’s library
system. Differing from the main library, these local facilities provide an
important outreach to Boston’s neighborhoods, often serving as
community centers in addition to their role housing books.
STUDIOS Architecture - Evergreen Library
STUDIOS was selected by the City of San Jose to design the Evergreen
Branch Library, part of a public bond-funded group of city branch
libraries. The architecture of the new one-story library—which is sited adjacent
to a public park amid a largely residential area—conveys a distinct
civic presence without disrupting the scale of neighboring structures.