Building the written.
“… I still regard it as my second home. You know, I am the kind of woman who reside in her own thoughts. And there, in the national library, it was as if the spatial world coincided with my mental world… Entering the elevators on the outdoor street level was always a transgressive experience. The ride allows just enough time to recompose yourself, and there you are – the doors open. It always intrigued me how this huge space can be so lively and so serene at the same time.”
Tereza Gebrian, laureate of the Nobel prize for literature 2027
in an interview with the Prague Post
A library is a library is a library. But a national library for the Czech Republic should also represent and relate to the collective identity of the Czech Republic.
Avoiding the use of banal metaphors or mere decoration – the best visual representation of Czech identity is the image of the city of Prague and its monuments. Following this line of thinking, the public hart of the building should be the top floor. In fact, one should enter the building at the top floor.
And that is exactly what this entry envisages.
The main public space of the library occupies the whole top floor of the building. A public piazza measuring 85 meter by 85 meter, offering – at 22 meter above street level - a view of the city of Prague in all its magnificent beauty.
This modern Forum contains – organised as a continues free floor plan - the entrance lounge, catalogue space, restaurants, and an open reading space. From this public space one can descend (by various means and limited by different security limitations) to the reading rooms, archives, and other spaces of the library. Conceptually speaking the library consists of a light public space (space of urban and social interaction), which is being supported by a heavy mass of books (space of knowledge). It can be visualized by the image of a child who is stacking some heavy books and climb on top of them in order to get a better view… and then start to read them.
Located on the inner ring of Prague, at a walking distance from the castle and well serviced by public transport, the connectivity of the site is perfect. On the small urban scale however, the ring road and the adjoining buildings do not have a meaningful character. The quality of public space along the road, including the edge of the park is minimal. We argue that any attempt to try and re-invent the urban public space on or around the location would mean imposing a solution at a place that does not need it and therefore will be in vane. The library building, as well as the future extension, and any other future development on the Letenská plane should be regarded as autonomous buildings. The program is too large to allow a building to merge itself into the site – it should simply BE there. To strengthen the autonomous character the building has been given a simple austere form. Almost the entire plot is being fully built. Slightly disconnected from the ground and with just a few elevator doors at the front it is enigmatic and sober. The library building does not invite people to linger at its feet - it intrigues them to use the public elevators! In other words: the urban public space is being relocated: at the top floor of the library.
Five large platform elevators transfer the visitors from the street or parking level all the way to the top floor. The elevators travel between the two outer skins of the library. On top the doors opened onto the glass-roofed forum. Parts of the forum – lounge and restaurant - are accessible independently of the library opening hours. The other functions – the catalogue and free reading space – are already within the boarders of the lowest security level of the library.
Aside from the magnificent urban panoramic view, a spatial incision offers a glance from the top level into the mass of books. Cutting through 5 levels, the bottom floor of this void is the reading space of the national archive offering a framed view in the direction of the Prague castle.
The mass of books below the entrance level contains the library itself. Its basic spatial organisation is that of a repetitious floor plan that consist of simple parallel corridors with bookshelves on both sides. Reading rooms, meeting spaces, auditoria etc. are being spared out of this mass.
From the top level one can descend into the space of knowledge using one of the three circulation cores: each one for a different security zone (blue, yellow or orange) as prescribes in the program. The cores consist of escalators, stairs and elevators and are also part of the main baring structure of the building.
Offices and services
Services and offices are allocated when needed on all floors, on the main street facade. The 2nd floor consists mainly of general services and offices. Logistically, staff and goods have their own separate circulation means, offering direct access to the library from the parking and expedition level.
From the outside, the distinction between the light transparent space of interaction and the massive austere space of knowledge is evident. The facade of the latest is constructed as a double skin. The inner skin consists mainly of transparent glazing. The outer skin consists of perforated panels with patterns that derive of famous sentences of knowledge who made an incomprehensible letter configurations. It allows view from the inside and light from the outside. At night the top floor illuminate and on the facade below the patterns become visible.
“Spending so much time in this building, I have developed this belief, that all the novels I have written, and actually everything I will ever write in the future, is hiding somewhere on the facade of the library…”
Tereza Gebrian, in the same interview.