“the idea of accumulating everything, of establishing a sort of general archive, the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms, all tastes, the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages, the project of organizing in this way a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time in an immobile place, this whole idea belongs to our modernity. The museum and the library are heterotopias that are proper to western culture of the nineteenth century”. Michel Foucault
“This will kill that. The book will kill the building. That is to say printing will kill Architecture.” Victor Hugo
Public Libraries are, as the philosopher Michel Foucault noted in the essay “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heteroptopias,” “storehouses of knowledge” that exist in space but outside of time. The structure of libraries is fixed while knowledge is ever growing. Long ago, Victor Hugo suggested that the book would kill the building. Since architecture was much slower than books in producing social orders, Hugo was right. But now the book is dying. This studio examines the crisis of the library, one of the oldest and most important institutions of knowledge in society.
How is knowledge to be housed today? We live in an age in which digital communication and media are undermining the culture of the printed book and physical storage, re-questioning the role of the traditional library along the way.
What should the library of the 21st century be then? Should it change its identity to become a mediatheque, workshop, lab, public space, “cultural entertainment” center, innovation incubator? Should it adopt a double identity, bridging the worlds of print and digital documents, of physical and virtual presence? Or should it simply disappear into virtual servers and merge into a timeless and placeless database?
This studio will attempt to address such questions through design proposals for the National Public Library. The new library will occupy a triangular plot on the former Green Line, facing Sodeco square and the Barakat building. It is a ﬁtting site for exchanges, on the civic, infrastructural and informational levels.
The studio will combine design speculations on the future of the library as an institution of knowledge, a national monument and a public cultural space with an advanced exploration of the various technologies and systems that enables it. We will focus on the intersection of both media and material, with a special emphasis on the performative aspects of architecture. In addition to organizational and spatial strategies (the library program), we will look carefully at the mediation of flows, light, sound, and the environment. The intent of this studio is to update the concept of the library and to call on architecture to play a new active role at the interface between the electronic, the physical, and the social.
The studio encourages projects that re-conceptualize the library as a “mini-city” with integrative propositions for:
site and urban form,
program and organization,
structure and envelop,
building technologies and systems,
Informed architectural and formal proposals require:
An understanding of libraries, their systems of access, retrieval & storage.
A critical knowledge of major contemporary library projects
An speculative exploration of formal, structural and programmatic scenarios that rethink the traditional performance of a library in the age of information
A supportive research of building technologies, materials, techniques, details and systems.