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Monday, November 15, 2010

City Library Helmond

City Library Helmond in Helmond, Netherlands by BOLLES+WILSON, 2010

See also this week's book review, BOLLES+WILSON: A Handful of Productive Paradigms.

The Dutch city Helmond is transforming its central shopping area, per a master plan by Professor Joan Busquests. Falling within that zone is the city's new library designed by BOLLES+WILSON. Its location is directly adjacent to Piet Blom's 1970's Tree Houses and Theatre, an earlier version of the Cubic Houses in Rotterdam. The library's design responds to the pedestrian shopping context in which it is situated by giving over most of its ground floor to retail.

The library's functions at grade include the children's library, a cafe with outdoor seating next to the Theatre Court, and of course the entrances. This last piece, the main entry, is announced by a two-story cantilevered extension of the facade mounted with the word BIBLIOTHEEK, a theme also used at the northeast corner. These projections are articulated as if the brick exterior is a pliable skin that can be pinched and pulled; even the windows above the entrance follow the angled projection.

The "rough dark brown and unusually horizontal bricks," in the architects' words, give the library its primary means of expression, but how the winows interact with this solid envelope is also important. Like other BOLLES+WILSON projects, the library's exterior is an effect of the interior spaces and their organization. According to the architects, "the internal spaces of the library are developed as an unfolding spatial sequence," from the entrance via a grand stair to the "first floor exhibition deck" and "central media Hot Spot...a Chinese-red sandwich."

Most of the stacks are on the upper floor, as are the offices; the latter lends the exterior its small openings marching from sign to sign (top photo). The top floor brings in generous amounts of daylighting with a long "tree-house-facing" window and a shared light well over the media hot spot.

The New City Library extends Julia Bolles-wilson and Peter Wilson's catalog of the building type, which includes their marvelous 1993 M√ľnster City Library and the soon-to-be-landmark BEIC library in Milan.

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