Monolithic Modern Design-The Royal Library in Denmark by SHL Architects
Also known as The Black Diamond(Danish:Den Sorte Diamant) it is one of the largest libraries in Europe, serving as the national library of Denmark and as a university library for the University of Copenhagen.
Construction started in 1995, inaugurated on 7 September 1999 and opened to public 8 days later. Complex in terms of functionality, the library houses many other facilities beside the library gathered around the main atrium; among them visitors can find an auditorium, the Queens’s Hall-used mostly for conferences, music and opera, bookshops, restaurants, coffee shops and exhibition spaces. The library itself is the most impressive; it was founded in 1648 by King Frederik III and since then it has accumulated some very comprehensive collections among which you can find the Arnamagnæan Manuscript, the Søren Kierkegaard Archives, the world known manuscripts of Hans Christian Andersen and maps of the Polar Region.
Concerning architecture, the building consists of a monolithic prism. Its nickname, The Black Diamond, refers to the black granite cladding(also known as Absolute Black) and the irregular angles it features. Its color is a bit unorthodox and at the same time, unique. There are not many buildings covered in black, or at least not entirely. In this case however, apart from the large glazing, the entire structure has been covered in the same color; the effects are astonishing in terms of appearance and contrast. It stands out no matter which angle are observing it from. And if it would have had a rather small height, maybe it would have looked like an accent for the landscape but, it’s not. The structure has seven floors and therefore a considerable height which leads to only one conclusion: it dominates the landscape in a very somehow natural and intriguing way.
The seemingly simple shape of the building leans to the left and to the river as well. It also expands towards its top and from north to south. So it is quite complex then, having in mind that each angle was calculated so that the building would be very stable. Natural light is able to flood the entire interior space through large glazings placed on the main and back facades, dividing the building in two and making them look like giant cracks in the block. Along its ground floor there is another bend of glazing which enables panoramic views of the waterfront and gives the impression that the entire structure is floating. The libraries old building(the Holm Building) is separated from the Black Diamond by the Christians Brygge thoroughfare, connected though through several skyways.The interior is as fascinating as the exterior. The various functions of the building are united by the large atrium which is very bright and has a natural, organic design. The reading rooms start from level C up to level F; each contains 160 study seats and measure twice the height of a normal room.
Libraries and public buildings in genre can present some very difficult challenges for an architect. Apart from the looks of the building, there are many other things to be considered that are not out in the obvious like people safety and all sorts of regulations. Designing a library is then a very difficult task. This building however has become something much more than just a library. It is a symbol and a landmark for the city of Copenhagen and to my mind one of the most complete and remarkable projects I’ve seen.
This project represented a huge step for the architects too, whom, as founding Partner Bjarne Hammer states 10 years after The Black Diamond’s inauguration, a major contributor to their experience as architects:
“We are drawn to these projects for their potential to engage the public and not only to give cultural and social life to their cities and towns but also for their ability to work as a accelerator for learning and knowledge.”
Photo courtesy to Adrian Welch
Area: New 21,000 m2. Refurbishment 7,000 m2
Project:The Royal Library
Construction Sum: € 49 million / £ 39 million
Construction period: 1995-99
Award: 1st prize
Competition year: 1993
Competition type: Open international
Client: Danish Ministry of Culture
Architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Landscape architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Engineer: Moe & Brødsgaard Consulting Engineers
Acoustics: Anders Gade
Copenhagen Municipality’s Architecture
Nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award 2000
Nykredit Architecture Prize 2001
Du Pont Benedictus Award 2003
Size :6,100,000 books and journals, 18,300,000 prints and photographs, 7,400,000 pamphlets and corporate publications, 1,200,000 other materials (33,000,000 total items)