Making Space for Culture

Modern buildings for educational purposes provide a blend of attractive public accessibility and concentration. The architecture and furniture design create subtle accents.




Universities, colleges and libraries are special urban places. They preserve culture and provide the space to advance it by means of research and enquiry. Consequently, they combine public accessibility with focused retreat – a mixture which, in the course of the centuries, has produced some wonderful architecture and subtle interiors. And as the latest projects go to show, this particular type of construction assignment has lost nothing of its attraction. Whilst the urban significance of such buildings has increased even further, their furnishings are geared towards modern requirements.

Plentiful offerings
The Library of Birmingham, which opened in 2013, is a prime example. Dutch architectural practice Mecanoo created an iconographic building that they clad in a skin of aluminium rings in allusion to the city’s metalworking heritage. Inside, there is a rich fabric of cultural offerings and spaces. The architecture has been carefully devised in line with its function – depending on whether the space is intended as a place of encounter or a space for concentration. The furnishings make an ingenious contribution to this differentiation. Along the inside of the transparent facade, for instance, there is a continuous reading ledge equipped with “Lem” stools from Lapalma. Besides complementing the contemporary interior, the stools – a design by Shin & Tomoko Azumi – also join in the play of forms created by the ornamentation on the facade.

Past and future
Walter Knoll’s Foster 502 and Jaan armchairs have also recently been deployed in a library with a special aura. Built at the end of the 18th century, La Ciudadela in the heart of Mexico City houses the biggest library in Latin America. In 2012, JSa Arquitectos, Alejandro Sánchez Garcia Arquitectos and Bernardo Gómez Pimienta Arquitectura were responsible for a renovation project that restored it to its former glory. The new Ciudad de los libros – The City of Books – embodies an innovative library concept: the personal book collections of Mexico’s literary greats are each housed in a separate dedicated space. The historic books and upmarket interior thus succeed in establishing a link between the past and the future.

Animating accents
The Aulario Building of Diego Portales University in Santiago, Chile, is part of the current generation of new university buildings. Its architecture – planned by Alvano y Riquelme together with Clemente Guarda y Cornelio Saavedra and with an interior design by Brainworks – unfolds around a tall central space. Six lucidly designed levels combine to form a single entity and are accentuated by furnishings from Vondom: with their organic silhouette, various grey hues and striking shades of red, the pieces selected from Stefano Giovannoni and Elisa Gargan’s STONE Collection bring an animated yet well-balanced look to the interior. What these and other recent projects for institutions dedicated to reading, learning and encounters have in common is the carefully choreographed interaction between their architecture and interiors. Nowadays, the exchange of knowledge often takes place online – which only makes the way urban sites are designed all the more important.


Source: Koelnmesse, reprint free of charge.