A Linking Element: Library in Grimstad
In the southern Norwegian coastal town of Grimstad, Helen & Hard Arkitekter have given a complex design to a diverse mixed-use building in the form of their new library building. The roof, which is practically flat, folds in a protective gesture at its southeast and northwest corners. Along the ridge, a long band of skylights lets daylight into the reading hall and accentuates the extended aspect of the structure. The fanned-out longitudinal façades are intended to underscore the movement that takes place inside the library.
This movement is not merely metaphorical. The new building functions as a link between the old city centre to the north, which sits a bit higher up, and the newer, car-friendly shopping centre planned for the harbour to the south. In order to draw users from both sides of town, the building has two main entrances, each on a different level, connected inside the building by a wide stairway. Featuring a café and a presentation room on the ground floor, the new structure will enrich Grimstad’s cultural life beyond the library itself. During events, this part of the building can be operated separately from the other areas. The architects have integrated parts of a former police station on the ground floor by setting an open wood-frame construction over that solid structure.
Nearly the entire upper floor is conceived as an open, continuous space. Only four steel crossbeams hidden in the façades reinforce the supporting structure. The façades were prepared in advance as wood-panel elements. On the face of the building, the architects added a second, relief-like cladding of slightly stronger
wooden profiles which frame the structure’s openings like a border. Along the longitudinal façades, narrow vertical glass slits between the individual façade elements let the southern sun shine into the café and the northern light penetrate the reading hall. In sunny weather, the wooden ceiling becomes a projection surface for the play of light reflected by the sun on the snow outside; the images come through one of the library’s many windows.