TU Delft Library in Netherlands is a masterpiece of modern architecture designed by Mecanoo Architechten. This building is not just the library of Delft’s University of Technology but an extravagant example of the architectural design. The library’s area of 15,000 square meters contains underground book archive, reading rooms, university publisher, offices, Trasor for historic books and exhibitions, study spaces, book binder, and a bookshop (Mecanoo n.d.). This original construction has already received an award for the Millennium founded by Corus Construction in 2000 and the National Steel Construction Prize in 1998 established by Dutch Steel Building Institute. The design of such massive institution took two years, and another two years were spent on project’s realization. The TU Delft Library is a unique project that represents modern pragmatism, scale, and multitasking functionality. It combines multiple elements in one single idea that reflects the spirit of modern architecture in the shapes and materials of the building.
The major goal of this paper is to identify the main distinctive features of the project and understand what makes it unique and functional at the same time. The background of this study will base on recent research on modern architectural design with the focus on similar super-projects that have undoubted significance as the cultural heritage. Analysing the views on TU Delft Library, I will present my opinion on the project in the conclusion part of this study.
Design of such a large library is not an easy task, which requires a lot of structural thought. Simply establishing a standard building could not meet the needs of the university where working atmosphere must have been combined with a relaxing environment. Apart from the instant access to knowledge and a proper atmosphere for studying, the students need to have a lot of free space for creativity. It is true not only metaphorically but literarily, as well. Therefore, the designers of the new TU Delft Library faced the problem of making the building of generous proportions functional and keeping the idle atmosphere of the university campus at the same time. The solution was found, and it amazes the students and observers up till now.
The roof of the library gently rises from the ground creating a big area of free space above the building covered with green grass and dozens of happy students breathing fresh air on their break from study. Under the roof, there is a solid construction of glass, metal, and wood housing study spaces, reading rooms, archives, and thousands of books. On the roof, there is a cone, the symbol of technology that pierces the library and the landscape affixing them like a pushpin (Wezenbeek, 2008).
The roof covered with grass, glass facades, and an underground storage for temperature control provides a high level of the building’s sustainability (Watts, 2005). Entering the library, the visitor observes the book stacks for rare books. Less fragile books are stored inside the towering suspended bookcase. The walls of the library are coloured in deep blue giving an observer the feeling of a theatre set. The columns of the central hall perform not only structural function but also provide lighting and heating. On top, one can see a metal ceiling that passes through all spaces contrasting with the floor reminding of the desert sand.
The building is designed the way to make the staying there the most comfortable for everybody. The environment of the library provides appropriate conditions for maximum concentration through silence, comfortable furniture, and warm lighting. Daylight comes into the building not only through big floor-to-ceiling windows of the facade but also through the cone in the centre of the library. The cone also gives space to a variety of study rooms. The central hall contains long tables with three hundred workstations.
While working on a new project of a university library, a great variety of already existent library buildings rise to view. Such illustrious libraries as Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris (1875) designed by Henri Labrouste and the Stockholm Municipal Library (1927) designed by Erik Gunnar Asplund imply that a sophisticated modern building should be erected (Grunt & Coles, 1969). Nowadays, such a construction should be equipped with every possible digital novelty while also should conserve such significant traditions as easy access to educational resource and lofty atmosphere of the academic process. Apart from being a library that comprises a thousand of operational stations and has the ability to shelter about three thousand students a day, Delft Library should also become the university’s heart and a landmark of the whole campus. In addition, the design should make allowance for the centrally located auditorium, which is designed by such great figures in the history of this university and Dutch architecture as a whole as Van den Broek and Bakema.
Apart from adoption of certain architectural concepts of the previous centuries, TU Delft Library blends with several similar modern projects. As one of the main parts of universities providing primary access to knowledge through different platforms, libraries have been a subject of interest to many conceptual designers who have experience in creating projects that combine functionality with comfort and innovations. In recent architectural practice, the complexity of the old libraries with leads in glass windows and rows of dark wood shelves now makes way for clean lines, open spaces and a focus on technological innovations. These modern libraries kept the same beauty and greatness focusing on dramatic shapes and volumes, high ceilings, transparent walls, and fascinating lines of bookshelves.
An interesting example of such grandiose projects is Jose Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City. With the area of 409,000 square foot, this library was being built for two years but had to be closed after completion for 22 months due to certain construction defects. Inside the library, multiple rows of glistening steel create tangled geometric patterns that impress visitors with the amount of books contained within the shelves.
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Another example of modern architecture, Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library is housed in an unusual modern structure built in 1963. This building of enormous size is the largest construction used only for the preservation of rare writings. Inside, the books are stored in six tiers that go up to the top of the building. The walls are made of translucent marble to prevent light from getting inside in order to create appropriate conditions for preservation of the delicate books and papers (Anderson 2011).
National Library of Belarus is a demonstrative concept that presents the efficient utilization of new technology in architecture. The fa?ade of this geometric building is a big LED display that glimmers in the sun during the day and glows at night creating a beautiful varying light show. The library has 23 stories where the largest collection of books in Russian is being kept (Pevsner, 2005).
A symbiosis of nature and modern architecture is reflected in the sweeping Halmstad Library of Halmstad in Sweden. Designed by SHL Architects, this building raises above the river Nissan and envelopes around a great chestnut tree. Inside this library, there is one large open space underlined by wide floor-to-ceiling windows.
Reminding of an ancient Roman aqueduct, the Vancouver Public Library impresses with its beams and arches towering into the air. Designed by Moshe Safdie, this unusual structure includes many different facilities that supplement the public library, such as an attached office high-rise, retail shops, restaurants, and. The building has a garden on the roof that is, unfortunately, not accessible to the public.
These magnificent examples of modern design signify the blossom of the contemporary architecture. Certain fashionable tendencies can be traced through observation of these libraries. We can see that glass facades and open space are important details in modern conceptual designs (Frampton 1992). Through such elements, the atmosphere of transparency is created, which allows providing more comfortable conditions for work and study. Designs presented here underline the importance of light and space in every facility. Moreover, some examples demonstrate how maximum functionality can be achieved through the utilization of certain details in an unusual way. Without piling up dozens of walls and blockings, the effective arrangement of space can be much more productive and comfortable.
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The building of the TU Delft Library has a great cultural value as an example of modern architecture. The unique realization of such a bold plan brought the world a masterpiece of architectural design that meets the highest standards of contemporary construction. Such elements as the roof of grass and a giant cone with study rooms inside rising above the massive library of glass and metal with hundreds of square meters of free space make this library an almost fantastic piece of architecture (Glancey 2006). Such buildings represent the constructions of the future where art meets with functionality and usability.
Despite the great initial concept and design, TU Delft Library continues to develop and reconstruct in accordance with the most acute needs of the students. Today, the building includes more facilities and sections than it was originally designed. Such reconstruction is a necessary mean considering the ever changing world of technological innovations. Redesign means improvement, and in the case of TU Delft Library, the changes are for the better. The library is not going to be rebuilding, but its huge spaces will be rearranged in order to increase the efficiency of every square meter. The new design will include development of new sections dedicated to relaxation and entertainment of students. This will help to increase their productivity and improve learning outcomes.
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Architectural designer has to take care of many things in order to create a successful project. Apart from thinking about the appearance of the building, certain important aspects must be taken into account when developing a plan. Since every building performs certain functions, the best way to facilitate this performance by means of architectural design has to be found. Modern designers have a difficult task of building sustainable constructions that look good and function well. Moreover, limited resources are also an important aspect of creating a good design. Today, everything has to be well-considered in order to avoid unaffordable mistakes. Therefore, architectural design is a very complicated thing that takes a lot of efforts and thought. The project of TU Delft Library is an example of good design and excellent realization.
Despite its seeming similarity with other modern constructions, TU Delft Library has its unique features that make its design original and worth discussion. Such buildings as this library open new direction in architectural design and provide opportunities for creative decisions. The project of the Delft library indicates about the new tendency in architectural design that focuses on large open spaces, light rooms, and loose structure of the inner objects. In other words, the future architecture will be presumably oriented at free arrangement of the space and environmental sustainability.