Dutch architects MVRDV get to do amazing things that would never happen in North America, where there are differing priorities. Libraries, if they are built in poor areas at all, are utilitarian at best. In the Netherlands, MVRDV's new public library in Spijkenisse near Rotterdam is a "long bookshelf spiraling up creating a mountain of books, covered by a glass shell the visibility of the books will act as beacon for accessibility of literature and information." It is like a Tower of Babel of books.
The tower then sits under a "bell jar" of a glass roof that lets in a lot of sunlight. The librarians would normally go nuts over that, since sun would damage the books, but the architects say hey, they only have an average life of four years.
At dusk and in darkness, the library changes into an enchanted mountain. Reading lamps, lamps above the book cases and in the alcoves produce a hill of glittering lights. Tall street lights around the library add to the lighting of the interior and continue the public space from outside to inside. They also reduce the internal reflections from the glass envelope: when inside at night, you can also see the outside world.
There are a range of more sustainable features:
The new central library for Spijkensse, will be relying completely on natural ventilation controlled by a sophisticated balance system of independent adiabatic cooling based on a greywater circuit, a dry cooler, phase change materials, automatic sun screens, shading plants, a façade responding to weather conditions and subterranean heat and cool storages for changing seasons. The libraries state of the art bookshelves will be made of recycled waste material.
The work of MVRDV always surprises. This project is in the middle of a housing development that they have been working on for almost a decade, in a poor suburb with a high illiteracy rate. The architects modestly call the project "A magnificent shop window for knowledge, information and culture that unambiguously promotes the idea of reading day and night."
In America, we get excited about converted Walmarts.