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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

NATIONAL LIBRARY OF FRANCE by Dominique Perrault Architecture

 
April 10th, 2015 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Dominique Perrault Architecture

A place and not a building

The “grands projects” of the President of the Republic that have been completed up to date are all closely associated with a site, and a history -in a word, a place with a name. The National Library of France is built on a stretch of industrial waste land on the banks of the Seine in the East End of Paris. It represents the starting- point for a complete reconstruction of this entire sector of the 13th district. The institution encompasses within it an element of grandiosity and an element of generosity. If we refer to the urban history of the great monuments which have been the fundamental signs of the city’s thrust toward new territory, the greatest gift that it is possible to give to Paris consists, today, in offering space, and emptiness – in a word, a place that is open, free, and stirring. Accordingly, the enormous building, which is envisaged with architectural emphasis and contentions by way of back-up, is transformed into a project that involves the void. Proposing as it does to the History of France a focus on immateriality and non-ostentation, this is an absolute luxury in thet city. It is this context which engenders the concept of the project.

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

  • Architects: Dominique Perrault Architecture
  • Project: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF FRANCE
  • Location: Quai François Mauriac, 75013 Paris, France
  • Photography: Georges Fessy, Vincent Fillon
  • Program:
    • Public spaces (public reading rooms 1 556 places, research reading rooms 2 034 places for a total of 3 590 readers for 59 070 m²)
    •  Reception and public services area (23 000 m²)
    •  Conference rooms (3 000 m²)
    •  Stock rooms (71 000 m², ca. 400 km of shelves, 20 million volumes)
    •  Administration (36 000 m²) of which 16 000 m² is office space in the towers
    •  Technical space (35 000 m²)
    •  Underground car park for 700 cars (20 500 m²)
  • Site area: 65 300 m²
  • Built area: 365 178 m²
  • Built volume: 1 500 000 m³
Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

  • Landscape: 10 782 m², 250 trees (oak trees, wild pine trees, birches)
  • Esplanade: 58 811 m²
  • Beginning of conceptual design: August 1989
  • Beginning of construction: 23 March 1992
  • Construction period: 3 years

    Image Courtesy © Vincent Fillon

    Image Courtesy © Vincent Fillon

A square for Paris | A Library for France
An initiatory place and not some monster of a building, part-temple and part-supermarket. A place of reference for the East End of Paris. A place that is part and parcel of the continuity of the sequence of large empty spaces along the Seine, like the place de la Concorde, the Champ de Mars, and the Invalides. In this way the site beside the Seine becomes one of major importance with the activation of this place; the hill in the 13th arrondissement gives on to the Seine, and turns its back on the disgrace of the sad Porte de Choisy and Porte d’Ivry highrise tower-blocks. In an operation designed to save and redeem the place, the institution introduces its generosity, while the Bibliothèque de France contributes its influence and radiance. With this combination of a free and open space, built to the scale of the capital, and horizontality, the Bibliothèque de France unfurls its breadth and volume by way of its four “beacon” -like markers, akin to tension-rods or braces for the flat area between them, offering a verticality that defines a virtual volume, which, in turn, crystallizes all the magic, presence and poetry of the complex.

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

A symbolic place
With its four corner towers resembling four open books ail facing one another, and delimiting a symbolic place, the Bibliothèque de France -a mythical place – imposes its presence and identity on the scale of the city by the adjustment of its four corners. These urban landmarks develop and enhance the idea of the “book”, with a random kind of use of the towers, the occupation of which is like an accumulation of learning, of knowledge that is never complete, and of a slow but ongoing process of sedimentation. Other complementary metaphors spring to mind, be it book-towers, or silos, or vast racks with countless shelves, or vertical labyrinths, and ail these unambiguous images converge on a powerful identity of these architectural objects. The installation of a square underpins the notion of availability, as applied to treasure. It is the towers which have helped to situate and identify this treasure as cultural. The public place will offer a direct and natural physical contact between the sacred institution and the man in the street. The inclusion of an “inlaid“, sunken garden rounds off the symbolic siting of the project, offering a quiet spot away from the fuss and bother of the city. Like a cloister, this tranquil, unruffled space will invite contemplation and a flowering of intellectual endeavour.

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

A magic place
This project is a piece of urban art, a minimalist installation, the “less is more“ of emotion, where objects and the materials of which they are made count for nothing without the lights which transcend them. Towers, case – or sheath -like structures of glass, with a double skin and sun filters which multiply the reflections and highlights, and magnify the shadows: the absolute magic of the diffraction of light by means of these crystalline prisms. Nature offset, with a garden where all you see is the foliage of the trees. «A sea of trees, a froth of leaves». An initiatory walk across footbridges slung among the branches of the trees, somewhere between sky and earth. Last of all, the soft protection of undergrowth, with its aromas and rustling sounds, reunions with oneself, and with another world. Night vision: the Bibliothèque de France will be set in a halo of light, emanating from the garden and the service periphery. A diaphanous light will rise up through the interiors of the glass towers, culminating in four topmost points, which will shimmer like four lighthouse beacons. This liquid light will spread over the square, while the towers will be reflected on the Seine.

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

An urban place
What could be more urban and more public than a pedestrian square? The challenge of creating a void preserves the future of the district, while at the same time steering its development and offering conspicuous architectural requirements, such as can be learn from the great squares of Paris. A square is a space that is lined or hemmed: a system of continuous structures-combining porches, covered walks, and a lofty crowning feature forming a skyline -delimits the public place. This setting acts as a backdrop, not a water-front foreground. It will accommodate diverse and varied architectural scripts, the sole rule being their shared role of accompanying, in their own right, the institution’s urban influence

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Georges Fe

Image Courtesy © Dominique Perrault Architecture

Image Courtesy © Dominique Perrault Architecture

Image Courtesy © Dominique Perrault Architecture

Image Courtesy © Dominique Perrault Architecture

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