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Library, OMA, France, Caen

A Bold Building in XL: Library by OMA

The public library is located on a sort of peninsula. If we were to connect a few of Caen’s most important places, such as the two monastery churches Abbaye aux Dames and the Abbaye aux Hommes to the north and west, the main railway station to the south and the new development area to the east, their point of intersection would be exactly on the building site of the library. Inspired by these functional axes, there is an X-shaped floor plan which takes on the context and gives the building its high recognition factor.
The façades have been designed with panels which accentuate the distribution of the building into storeys and, at the same time, stretch it with their vertical texture. The various functions are arranged over three storeys inside the library: open reading areas, inviting seating zones and administrative spaces. The cellar is home to sensitive collections whose storage requires a particular indoor climate. On the entrance level found above the cellar, everything is organized around a central reception area. Here there is an auditorium, sales stands and a restaurant facing the water.

The cruciform floor plan also expresses itself in its programmatic arrangement. Each of the four different building ends is home to different subject areas: humanities, natural sciences and technology, literature and art. On the first upper level, a large, open reading room connects the four areas. Extensive glazing allows views outside and creates a bright, friendly atmosphere. The open reading areas, inviting seating zones and shared spaces make for a flexible framework. The third, final upper level is home to administrative spaces, offices and the children’s library.

A unified design provides a visual connection for the otherwise diverse interior spaces. The floor and sitting steps in wood add warmth. Here and there, the unclad steel supports of the construction delimit the different areas. White bookcases and acoustic ceilings complete the picture. The access paths are not hidden, but rather have been deliberately staged. For instance, there is a central escalator in the reading room. It ends amid the bookcases and structures the space.

The special concept of this enormous multimedia library rests on the integration of new media. Books and digital objects are offered side by side on shared shelves. OMA attempt to break open rigid ideas of the library, to make it more modern and thereby appeal to all age groups.

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