Utrecht University Library
The library, which houses 42 million books, was intended, in addition to being a place where people could work in a concentrated manner, to also become the intellectual social center for the suburban university campus, where students and others can come to study and meet at all times of the day. The 40 meter tall library and the adjacent, lower parking garage, both clad in glass and concrete imprinted with the same silk-screened figurative pattern, are sited on the major road and pedestrian pathway across the campus. The simple rectangular massing of the library and the repetitive rhythm of its concrete cladding and glazing, which is subtly modulated by the projecting operable sections, stands in stark contrast to the rich, plastic spatial complexity of the interior spaces.
The books are stored in two primary volumes that seem to float up towards the ceiling. The massive, lifted book stack volumes are made of black-painted cast concrete, and the walls have a three-dimensional figural pattern cast into them which matches the two-dimensional pattern imprinted on the exterior glazing. While the black pattern on the glazing filters the natural light entering the building, the pattern embossed in the black-colored concrete walls acts to diffuse and bounce the light deeper into the interior spaces. At the center of the building, a vertical space, running from the ground to the roof, is opened between the two book stack volumes, which are interconnected by a series of stairs and sloping ramps. This central vertical space forms the experiential hinge of the building, interweaving the lines of movement, the spatial layers, and the internal views.
The walls and ceilings of the interior are black and matt, while the floors are white and shiny. The bookshelves are black, while the worktables are white. The predominant black color characterizing the interior is critical to creating the atmosphere of concentration, security, and silent communication essential to the function of the library. The black interior creates a feeling of local enclosure, allowing the inhabitants to conduct the private activity of concentrated study in a public place of collective identity. The only exceptions to this color scheme are the red rubber surfaces used in the book checkout area, the information desks, the auditorium, the bar, and the lounge, all of which are related to the itinerary of public movement through the building.
The individual workspaces are organized in a wide variety of locations and arrangements within the interior, some quite intimate and isolated, and some quite extended and exposed. The individual user can make a choice of where to work, and thus to determine both their ability to be absorbed in their work, and the amount of communication they wish to have with others in the library. Because of the remarkably rich range of sizes and shapes of the workplaces, and the complexly layered sections and the endlessly unfolding spatial intersections within the building, it is possible to recognize and communicate visually with people across the interior, and even from floor to floor, while at the same time being undisturbed by those sitting nearby.
3584 CS Utrecht
Date of design
Date of completion
WAA for Quinze & Milan
Wiel Arets, Harold Aspers, Dominic Papa, René Thijssen, Frederik Vaes, Henrik Vuust
Pauline Bremmer, Jacques van Eyck, Harold Hermans, Guido Neijnens, Michael Pedersen, Vincent Piroux, Jan Vanweert, Michiel Vrehen, Richard Welten
West 8, ABT Adviseurs in Bouwtechniek BV, Huygen Installatieadviseurs BV, Cauberg - Huygen Raadgevende Ingenieurs BV, Adviesbureau Peutz & Associates BV, Wilimas Bouwadviseurs BV, Adapt 3D, Heijmans-IBC Bouw BV, GTI Utiliteit Midden BV, Permasteelisa Central Europe BV