Pontifical Lateran University

Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, Italy by King Roselli Architetti

This project was spotted at architechnophilia.

This project for New Reading Rooms at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, Italy by King Roselli Architetti was intended to "bring the activity of reading and the consultation of books as the central occupation of the university." The importance of books in study at the university can be found in the numbers: 600,000 volumes total, including 25,000 antique books and 750 publications, primarily dealing with philosophy, theology, and canonic law.

Most of the volumes, and all of the antique books, are now located in climate-controlled spaces underground, separate from the new reading rooms. The reading rooms were previously scattered about the university, though now they're contained in the new addition, with direct access to 70,000 volumes and the publications. The addition is explicitly a new and unique volume, sited adjacent to lecture halls and the main university entrance, a reiteration of the importance of books in studies.

The external form is both expressively dramatic and functional. While the volume is clad in a brick similar to the existing neighbors, it obviously veers from them in the articulation of glazing, in tapered horizontal bands that hint at the network of floors behind the façades. According to the architects, "The library is arranged so that for every two floors of book stacks one sloping ramp, "U" shaped in plan, connects them." This sloping ramp is what's expressed on the exterior.

Furthermore, "The book stacks are as low as possible...[and] are made to look like a set of bookshelves themselves...an interior façade of bookshelves facing the reading ramps dedicated to publications...[forms] in effect a book tower." The orientation of reading rooms towards the stacks, and the inspired use of book storage for the interior treatment of the spaces and the display of publications are perhaps the strongest expressions of the recurring idea of the importance of books, without being obvious or derivative. Its expression on the outside -- again, lacking obviousness or derivation -- gives the library a fitting home at the university.