Selected in an open design competition, the scheme by Denton Corker Marshall for a new library for a university of international standing deftly bridges the past and the present. Located in a highly visible and central site on the side of the campus lake, its circular form responds to the strong circular buildings and roadways that distinguish the campus pattern. Conceived as earth architecture, it cleverly integrates building and landscape to become an occupied tropical landform. More images and architects’ description after the break.
A series of towers projects from the landform. Conceptually, they take inspiration from the ancient Indonesian practice of inscribing wisdom on stone tablets. The traditional reference makes the leap into modern day Indonesia as a series of abstracted stone tablets – ‘prasasti’ – rising from the circular grass-covered earth mound. The granite clad tablets of varying heights are ‘carved’ with narrow glazed bands allowing filtered light into the volumes below.
The circular landform is eroded on the lakeside opening up an amphitheatre with mature mahogany trees overlooking the lake. As well as identifying the main entry, this erosion allows light into the interior volume. The mound houses book stacks within five storeys, located on the outer edge of the circular plan. Beneath an insulating soil cover and concrete roof, rare manuscripts, books and research/reference materials are stored in a stable ambient temperature away from direct sunlight. Solid stone cladding and narrow bands of glazing further reduce heat gain, reducing the air conditioning load.
Closer to the center of the volume are reading areas which vary in form, depending on the shape of the individual tablets, from large open plan spaces to intimate reading rooms. Overlooking the lake, the upper floors house a variety of meeting and seminar rooms. By replacing faculty and departmental libraries, which previously scattered student activities, and incorporating new facilities – plaza, food court, bank, retail and a temporary exhibition space – the library becomes the university’s new student hub, a site for interaction with others, as well as with knowledge.
Internal navigation is clearly conceived; open interiors offer clear lines of sight and encourage interaction. Vertical transportation is predominantly via pedestrian ramps, encouraging readers to walk rather than use lifts, and to enjoy the interior’s spatial qualities. A series of curvilinear ramps occupies the void between the stacks and reading rooms. Skylights marking axes of significance are cut into the mound above the lobbies and book stacks.
Rain water is captured for use on site, waste water is treated and recycled and energy consumption is minimized. Maintaining existing mature trees and vegetation on the 2.5 hectare site is an important part in the design which, together with green roofs, ensures a large area of the site is retained as landscape. An inspiring landmark, the library belongs to and enhances the university campus.