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Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Project details

  • Location: Alexandria, Egypt
  • Architect: Snohetta 
  • Date Constructed: 2001

“From the shoreline, the library appears as a disc-shaped volume one hundred-sixty meters in diameter, tilted forward toward the water in the shape of a wedge. The architects intended the pure geometry of the circular plan to “recall the cyclical nature of knowledge, fluid throughout time” and to reflect the circular layout of the Alexandrian harbor. Although this blithe description is fairly specious taken literally, the reference suggests a genuine appeal to a timeless, universal, and perhaps archetypal form, both evocative and provocative in its purity. And in this it succeeds; between its massive size and its striking, clean profile, the Library exerts a commanding, primeval presence over the harbor city.”

“Inside, just below the sloping crystalline canopy, the great reading room—the crown jewel of the library—brings the size and magnificence of the design into a single view. Seven stacked tiers of platforms, reminiscent of the trays of Harvard’s Gund Hall, overlap one another in an unending expanse of diagonally vectored space, large enough to house some two thousand visitors. Soaring columns lift the ceiling high into the air, recalling the dramatic, flaring supports of Labrouste’s Bibliotheque Nacionale and Wright’s Johnson Wax Building. Perhaps in this spectacular arena alone, the building is truly recognizable as a library, functionally and genealogically tied to a typological model well established in architectural tradition.”

“It is in this reading room, too, that the architecture most glorifies the acts of scholarship and erudition. Basking in diffuse northern sunlight pouring through the roof, the warmth of the natural wood finishes and the staggered floor arrangement create thrilling Bachelardian moments of space that straddle the diametrics of the intimate and the immense. Richly textured wall finishes, meticulous structural articulations, and an innovative skylight system with the sculptural playfulness of a Miralles window sequence break down the enormous space further into a delicate interplay of details on an appreciably human scale”

Ref.: Archdaily

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