Almost ten years after the project began, a new public library described as "a magnificent shop window for knowledge, information and culture that unambiguously promotes the idea of reading day and night" has been officially opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands. Designed by MVRDV (which was the cause of some controversy a couple of years back when plans were released for its Cloud skyscraper), Book Mountain in Spijkenisse near Rotterdam features a huge glass and timber outer shell that's home to a five-story, tiered pyramid-like structure with thousands of books stacked on shelves that snake around the outside of its brick walls.
Although the €30 million (US$39 million) Boekenberg project (which includes a small housing quarter of 42 units and parking lot) started in 2003, construction didn't kick off until May 2009. Designed to be a beacon for accessibility of literature and information, the new public library was recently nominated for the Dutch National Wood award 2012 and finally opened to much regal pomp and ceremony on October 4 2012.
As soon as visitors to Book Mountain step through the front entrance, a ground floor of commercial outlets is the first indication that they're in for a somewhat different experience to that offered by the stuffy, unwelcoming and rather foreboding libraries of old.
To the left as you enter are some wide stairs that lead to a first floor featuring a children's education center and chess club. The walkway flows on up to the next level of office units and then onto an auditorium one floor up. The fourth floor hosts a café to stop and rest before climbing to the summit for reading tables and a panoramic view of Spijkenisse. Each floor can also be accessed by elevator.
As you'd no doubt expect of a library, there's a fair amount of shelving for storing the building's 70,000 books. But in a break away from the familiar maze of aisles, it's the outer walls of the central concrete, steel and brick building and the barriers edging the terrace walkways that support this building's collection. Some 3,205 meters (10,515 feet) in total length, the visually arresting racks are made of recycled KLP plastic and designed so that titles available for lending are placed within easy reach, and archived collections can be stored above.
Although the 26 meter (85 ft) tall outer glass hood makes effective use of natural light by day and gives the impression of an open air setting, lighting positioned above the book cases (and in alcoves and corridors) provides for reading/browsing comfort while also creating something of a spectacle at night for passers-by.
The building is also able to rely on a heady combination of automatic sun screens, shading plants, phase change materials, adiabatic cooling based on a graywater circuit, and a dry cooler for its temperature and climate control.
MVRDV says that any damage sustained to books as a result of exposure to direct sunlight is offset by an expected four-year-lending life.