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Images of the desert: Arabian library, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA by Richärd + Bauer.

Canyon slot

Photos: Bill Timmerman and Mark Boisclair.

One of the wonderful things about old Western films is the amazing scenery of places like Monument Valley. The natural geological features in Arizona known as desert slots, are narrow passes through red sandstone rock formations. They open and narrow according to the resilience of the rock to the eroding forces that created them. The massive side walls sometimes overhang compressing the narrow space further, whilst sudden openings reveal a seemingly infinite sky. This natural modulation of space has inspired the firm Richärd + Bauer in its design for the Arabian library in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Thrust from the desert floor the building is arranged around a courtyard and is entered through a canyon-like slot of weathering steel and glass. The walls overhang reminiscent of the natural rock formations before widening to reveal the open sky and courtyard.

Two roof gardens, using native species, further enhance the notion of the building as natural landscape. A thread of water recalls one of the agents of erosion which gathers in a pool in the courtyard.

The programme of the library is based around that of a modern bookshop with a popular library, a main collection of 120,000 volumes and areas for children and teenagers. There is also a café where readers can relax to ponder the forces that shape our imaginations.

Exterior perspective.

Approach to library.

Courtyard view.

Interior view.

Reception and work areas.

View of courtyard.

Interior spaces.

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