The former palace of Louis Bonaparte built in 1807, situated on the Drift in the historic city centre of Utrecht, has undergone a total redesign over recent years. The first and most prominent part of the Universiteitsbibliotheek Binnenstad (University Library City Centre) and the main entrance to the ‘Drift cluster’ on the Drift are now complete. The library accommodates an 8.5 kilometre collection and 350 study desks and carrels. Over the coming years, work on the adjoining section will go ahead with the same intensity and ambition until the UB Binnenstad takes final shape. The whole complex contains six buildings with listed status that served primarily as book stores and archives. The buildings were architecturally very dated and neglected. As a result of numerous alterations made over the years, the original structure and character of the buildings had been lost. As the architects, Grosfeld van der Velde is responsible for the design, which has been produced in close consultation with DHV (detailed drawings and project management).
The design was based on the concept of creating a natural meeting place for education and research, for employees and students, and for the university and the city in the heart of the Drift Cluster. A place where students and books take centre stage. The core values for the identity and perception of the complex include accessible, transparent, inviting, representative and restful. In addition to providing a functional and pragmatic solution for the programme of requirements, the design accentuates the intrinsic qualities and spatial layout of the different buildings, each of which has its own strengths and complements the others. The materials, details and colour scheme have been specifically chosen to draw the buildings together to create a unified whole. Particular attention has also been paid to integrating the complex installation techniques and the design of the interior components, such as study desks and carrels, search terminals, the library counter and fittings specifically developed for this project. Most of the study areas are situated at the front of the library and the collection is at right angles to the front of the building in an open arrangement. This makes the building light and transparent and encourages interaction. It creates a studious, attractive work environment where students can walk in and around the collection at their leisure and where there is space to meet for informal contact.
The heart of the complex is the entrance to the library that has a new layout and design that naturally complements the existing building, enhancing the traditional features while creating a new, modern presence for the Universiteitsbibliotheek Binnenstad.