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Monday, August 03, 2009

National Technical Library

National Technical Library in Prague, Czech Republic by Projektil Architekti

Photographs are by Viktor Tonner.

In 2000 Projektil Architekti won a competition for the National Technical Library on the Czech Technical University's Dejvicka campus. After years of inactivity and a search for a construction team the library will finally open next month. The library features six floors above grade and three floors below. The latter houses parking, storage and other non-daylight functions, and the former's mass sits behind a pleasing double-wall glass facade softened by the doughnut-shaped building's rounded corners.

Approaching the stand-alone building from the surrounding campus, the library veils its content behind the finely proportioned glazing. A prominent horizontal band and matching vertical marks break up an otherwise homogenous fa├žade. Access from any of the four sides is via recessed portals that give way to a central atrium. It is this space that is the heart of the project, a colorful space not anticipated by the exterior's formal treatment or lack of color.

This central space is important for a couple reciprocal reasons: bringing daylight into the deep floor plan and orienting the visitor on any of the six above-ground floors. Capped by a skylight (a green roof is used on solid areas) the atrium is bathed in a generous amount of natural light, an acceptable condition given that the library's materials are found in the stacked floors adjacent to the six-story space. Artificial strip lights on the ceiling also help orient visitors to the building's center by pointing in that direction, a more subtle means of wayfinding but one that helps create ceilings of interest.

One need only take a quick glance at these photographs to realize that daylight is not the only means of orientation in the library. Color is very important for creating a sense of place inside. The grey surfaces of the concrete walls, columns, ceilings, and stairs, is offset by the brightly colored floors and furniture, the latter sometimes specially made for the library. The graphic on the floors reads like a topographical map of sorts, creating a landscape throughout the library that ties the spaces together but points visitors to vertical circulation and other important areas. Lastly, cartoonish markings on the concrete guardrails adds another touch of whimsy to some seriously good architecture.

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