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The Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen have designed yet another modern library, as impressive as The Black Diamond in Copenhagen which we previously featured on our website.
The building replaced the university’s former library, the Queen Mother, constructed in 1965. The new building was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain on the 24th of September. Its purpose is very important and represents a strategic step in the development of the city of Aberdeen. Since the library has opened its doors to public, more than 700,000 people have visited it, in less than a year. This marks a significant achievement and proves that architecture can make a difference. It is however something more than just a library where people go to find books and read; it is a state of the art research and learning center for students, university staff, visitors and the public. Morten Schmidt, one of the people who laid the foundations of the Dutch firm gave a statement on the matter:
“The University of Aberdeen New Library functions as a meeting place and a cultural center for the students of the University as well as the Aberdeen community. The façade of the building shimmers during the day and glows softly at night, creating a luminous landmark – a beacon – for the city of Aberdeen. The increase in visitors shows that the new library has affected the students everyday behavior. The students come to study in the new library and to be a part of the social community of the University.”
Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects have gained a lot of experience over time in designing libraries. They have ongoing projects all across the globe which are surely to be very appreciated concerning what they have come up with so far. Even if most of their projects have the same function, each of them is unique and bears the mark of the ingeniousness these architects possess. The project this article is all about has a very dynamic interior featuring a spiraling atrium expanding all the way from the first to the eighth level, connecting them all at the same time. Kind of unusual for a library but definitely intriguing, the vortex is a wonderful piece of design that attracts visitors and eliminates that dull feeling you get when entering a library.
The relationship between the interior and the exterior is defined by a very powerful contrast which creates an element of surprise for the visitors. When approaching the building you get the sense that its regular forms are to be found inside as well and that the library is just a very normal place, probably a bit boring. This effect enhances the intriguing attributes of the atrium even more and helps you remember the place. The clean cut exterior has a very organic appearance created by the full and empty, creating a ratio of 50% transparent and opaque panes. The windows found between the white colored elements on the facade enable a great amount of natural light to flood the interior while offering great panoramic views of the city of Aberdeen, at the same time. And during night time I can only imagine how wonderful this structure would enlighten the sky.
The facades have been carefully designed having in mind sustainability as well; the opaque panels help reduce heat loss. Overall, the building meets the highest sustainable standards, minimizing long term running costs and energy use, and has been certified BREEAM Excellent.
Chris Banks, University Librarian & Director, Library, Special Collections & Museums, University of Aberdeen expressed his appreciation for this great academic achievement:
“The building is a bold and affirmative statement from the University. It says ‘We mean businesses and it also says ‘you are welcome here’. I love the way in which academics demonstrate their pride in the building: by bringing colleagues from other universities into it and also by bringing along members of their own families. I’m also delighted that the building has attracted so many more students to use the library and the way in which it provides for both social and formal meeting spaces. It has, for the first time, allowed us to truly showcase our very significant special collections.”
Public architectural programs like libraries and concert halls should always be given the utmost importance because they contribute to our society’s well-being and education. However, what Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects have achieved is something more than just a building that serves an academic purpose; it is a wonderful piece of architecture that defines this occupation’s goal, which is to turn the basic task of building into art.
Photo courtesy to Adam Mørk and Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Title: Sir Duncan Rice Library
Architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Client: University of Aberdeen
Area: 15,500 m²
Construction sum: € 40 million excl. VAT
Competition: 2005, 1st prize in restricted international competition
Status: Construction period 2009 – 2011
Engineer: Arup & Partners Ltd
Quantity Surveyors: Davis Langdon LLP
Landscape Architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Interior: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects