It's been said that architecture is a cultural repository of sorts; the structure, materiality and aesthetics chosen for a building can express a lot about a society's values and intentions -- or at least the client's or architect's.
Case in point are libraries; faced with changing times, there are some grandiose and gimmicky, high-tech attempts to draw more patrons in, but in true Scandinavian fashion, Norwegian architecture firm Helen & Hard's latest low-energy library and cultural center keeps it urbanely scaled, yet inspiring.
Located on the main square of Vennesla, Norway, the new building links an existing community and learning center together. The concept extends the urban space with a transparent facade that acts as an "urban loggia," revealing a glowing interior that is populated with a series of 27 prefabricated, glue-laminated timber ribs and CNC-cut plywood boards.
Encasing the space with a unifying visual rhythm, the ribs are conceived of as "useable hybrid structures" that are also functional; the upper parts are outfitted with inset lighting, while the lower parts touch down to form the library's shelving and air duct system.
Like walking into the mouth of a great whale, the size of the ribs also corresponds to the space -- they are larger at the public entrance; but as one proceeds, the interstitial spaces become more intimate, creating private reading nooks.
The library is classified as a "low-energy" building according to Norwegian energy-use standards, due to its choice of materials, fixtures and how it consciously relates to the surrounding, pre-existing buildings:
A main intention has also been to reduce the energy need for all three buildings through the infill concept and the use of high standard energy saving solutions in all new parts.
Libraries may be digitizing, books becoming anachronistic, and everything morphing into coffee shops, but at the same time, the cultural importance of a space dedicated to study, research and public access remains timeless -- and it's heartening to see a design that reflects that understanding. More information and images at Helen & Hard.