España Library / Giancarlo Mazzanti

Architect: Giancarlo Mazzanti
Collaborators: Andrés Sarmiento, Juan Manuel Gil, Freddy Pantoja, Camilo Mora, Pedro Saa, Alejandro Piña, Iván Ucros, Gustavo Vásquez
Location: Santo Domingo, Colombia
Project Year: 2005
Construction Year: 2007
Constructed Area: 5500 sqm
Structure: Sergio Tobón
Steel Structure: Alberto Ashner
Photographs: Sergio Gómez

Background and needs

The Project is located on one of the hillsides that have been affected by the violence since the 80´s because of the drug traffic network that operates in the city of Medellin. It is part of the government’s social master plan program to give equal economic and social opportunities to the population.

The program asked for a building with library, training room, administration room and auditorium on a unique volume. The proposal was to fragment the program in three groups: The library, the rooms, and the auditorium; then join them with a bottom platform that allows flexibility and autonomy, improving the people’s participation considering each volume operates independently.

Justification of the adopted composed solution


Medellín is geographically mountainous.

The city is located in the north of Los Andes mountain ridge, one of the most topographically broken places of Colombia. This geography defines the identity and the image of the city. This image is precisely what the project aims at, it intends to integrate itself into the landscape and become an interpretation of it.

Architecture as landscape

More than a building, it proposes the construction of an operative geography that belongs to the valley like a mechanism of organization of the program and the zone, showing the unknown directions of the irregular mountain contours, not like a metaphor, but like an organization of the form in the place, a folded building cut like the mountains. A landscape building that redefines the folded mountain structure in form and space, nullifying the idea of the landscape like a background and encouraging the ambiguity building-landscape.

Justification of the urban insertion of the proposal

The Place:

The Project is organized in two structures: the first one is the building – landscape (rocks) and the second one is a platform that integrates and transforms the cover into a square that looks into the valley; this way, the building is empowered as a meeting place, multiplying the connections and letting it develop as a reference point.

The building like an icon

The place is made by small brick houses, product of auto construction; and residue of green areas as a result of the impossibility of construction on it. This organization produces a uniform texture of the city like a building – landscape, like an icon, keeping the tension that already exists. Geography as an element of hierarchy; and architecture as the epitome of texture.

The Project is noticeable from a big part of the city, allowing it to redefine itself as the symbol of a new Medellín, as a way of making people feel identified and receiving the building as their own. In the present state, the building is one of the touristic points in the city and one of the most visited.

Other Aspects

Ambient and atmosphere

Additionally to make an icon building, the first premise was to develop a construction that, through its interior design, could descontextualize the individual from the poverty that is experienced in the outside creating a warm atmosphere based on natural light, allowing a great ambient of study and lecture. This is the reason why the building takes a timid look into the city trough the small windows that show the relation with the valley, letting the illumination go into the top of the building.

Cite: "España Library / Giancarlo Mazzanti" 17 Jun 2008. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2015. <>
  • Scledon

    Hi, I´m Colombian……
    I really don´t know if this library is good for medellin. Our “Colombian Architecture” is very closed with the material and the body of the buildings. This library is too much for us because we want less forms, more architecture… Excuse me for my english

  • Cesar Ortiz

    Scledon, I am colombian too, and there are some aspects of the library that I don’t like, but, WHAT KIND OF COMMENT IS THAT!!??
    According to your words, what kind of “Colombian Architecture” do we need (and deserve)?

    If you are architect, I would expect a higher level of elaboration in your criticism.

  • Nico Saieh

    I agree with Cesar. It’s ok if you think this kind of architecture is not very associate to the “colombian architecture legacy”, but you can’t say it’s not a benefit to the city and the citizens. It’s an amazing work and a new image of the city, which by the way, is a very good one.

  • Augusto

    Scledon : What do you mean by “less form, more architecture”?, I think there`s a contradiction, one term implies the other.

    This is a nice building

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  • Virginia

    I love these buildings. I am a designer, not an architect. My first reaction when I saw the photograph was that they were great granite slabs, complementing the existing landscape. No unsightly flashes of glass or colouring to scream acknowledgement. Simply sitting quietly looking over the town. Cathedral presence. Entirely appropriate.

  • Mike

    Hi everyone, I went to that library the last year, and my opinion is that the project really helped to revitalize the zone, the library is located in a zone that was one of the most dangerous zones in Medellin, an article in the local paper said that the crime in the area decreased like 90% since the construction of the Library and the Metro Cable (metro cable is a railway that transport the people from the metro station to the top of the mountain where the people live), it helped to turn a red zone into a touristic zone. The design of the facades is audacious, in the other hand when I went all over the building and my reaction studying the interior was quite disappointing, because the audacious of the exterior design is not reflected in the interior, to me it looked like the work of two different architects, also I noticed some weak points and the most important was the acoustic, if you can see the sections, you will see that the interior is all open, the lower floor is dedicated to kids, and if you are on the top floor you can hear all the noise that the kids produce, also the illumination in the kids area is poor.
    thanks it was my opinion as an architect, I’ll be glad if someone can give a second opinion.

  • Cesar Castro

    The execution is very poor, considering the presence of the buildings into the surrounding neighborhoods. It’s undeniable the beauty of the shapes, but I would bet how much photoshop have the pictures: When you visit the library, you can see the HUGE concrete stains sliding over the ¿stone? finishing of the facade. Despite of this, the biggest merit of the building is the public space generated throught the decks surrounding it. They have the delicacy the buidings don’t have.

  • One

    I do not think this library is placed in a right context. First of all, the building is on the hill up there, such maks extremely difficult to go there very casually. Secondly the building is closed in accessibilty in such extend that it can only approach only from one side. I belive anylibrary should be placed in the middle of a city or neighbourhood so that it is open and accessible to most of inhabitants.

    It is a nice looking sculpture, but this does no help overcome the hindrance on context.

  • Mike

    I think that it is not the problem, if you could see the topograpy of the terrain where they placed the library and the trace of the “streets” and paths you may think that they made a good solution, its true, it’s only open from one side, but its the side were the public transportation is located. Other fact is that the area is a highly densed one so, you would notice that it is already a big neighborhood as big as any other or even bigger, and the library was part of a big project were they built libraries in most of the marginal places in medellin, that library was made to cover the necesities of that zone.
    I’m not defending the project if you can read my last comment you will see what I think was poor.

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  • Alejandro

    To all the comments above,

    This abstraction of a space is very interesting, reading some of people’s comments i can see some of us are just not ready for the future. Our future is not going to be more boxes, the future is abstraction; therefore cities have to change no matter what type of architecture/form they use to follow. We must look into the future creating smarter building and at the same time leaving a clean “signature” of our era. DIFFRENT IS GOOD!

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