OMA wins competition for new BMVR library in Caen, France

Day view © OMA
Day view ©

A few weeks ago we were discussing on Twitter how OMA has developed several innovations in cultural and educational buildings. The Wyly Theater (in partnership with REX), the Seattle Public Library, and on projects such as the MNBAQ extension or the West Kowloon Cultural District master plan.

Today we got the news that OMA has won the competition for a new regional library (Bibliothèque Multimédia à Vocation Régionale) in Caen, . The 12,000m2 project will be OMA’s first cultural building in , and was led by associate-in-charge Clément Blanchet.

Context, © OMA
Context © OMA

The new library, located at the tip of Caen’s peninsula, includes four protruding wings that point towards four of the city’s landmarks: the abbeys Abbaye-aux-Dames in the north and Abbaye-aux-Hommes in the east; the central train station to the south; and the site of proposed future developments in the west.

The library consists of two intersecting reading rooms, which encourage maximum interface between the programmed disciplines: human sciences, science and technology, literature, and the arts.

“Instead of having four distinct areas linked by bridges, space is structured along two intersecting axes, creating a space of confluence for both knowledge and people.”

- Clément Blanchet

Night view © OMA
Night view © OMA

In the exterior spaces created by these intersecting reading rooms, the library interacts with its surroundings, opening up to a park, pedestrian pathway and waterfront plaza. Large windows span the height of the reading room and provide natural light. With dynamic views onto Caen and a simultaneous internal transparency, the building is an observatory of knowledge. It encourages the contemplation of the urban or cultural landscape, even as it serves the library’s traditional role as a space for reading, studying, and interacting with other users.

Interior view, main lecture room © OMA
Interior view, main lecture room © OMA

The design’s sustainable approach responds to local climactic conditions to ensure energy efficiency. Shallow floor plans maximise available natural light, creating the ideal reading environment crucial to a library.

Cite: Basulto, David. "OMA wins competition for new BMVR library in Caen, France" 10 Sep 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • John-David Carling


  • tsk tsk

    oh…it’s an X!

  • joe

    Do they ever lose competitions?

  • Andrew

    OMA always has new innovative projects. I think he is finally being allowed explore his original concept with the Jussieu Library, with a more urbanistic mindset within the building.

    His redefinition of program and spatial configurations are admirable- loose and carefree, which is something most wouldn’t associate with a library. It becomes more about experience and participation than it is about formality and order.

    Here’s a good look into the heart of the project:

    • mrSelden

      Great video… helps paint a better picture of the concept in OMA’s signature way. I don’t think libraries have been associated with formality and order in over a decade… the most recent efforts have tried to balance the historical need for quiet spaces with the contemporary need for collaborative environments, a place where people exchange with each other, not just books. But I agree, if anything, Koolhaas, along with REX, and BIG are helping us dispel of an outdated programmatic model.

  • Henry

    I perceive this OMA proposal in two distinct ways. At first glance I question the facade transitions and the supposed connectivity to the “landmarks of Caen”. The site of proposed future developments is not, by any means a landmark and the absence of any view or transportation corridor between the proposal and the “landmarks” begins to refute their design claim. The shape as a result of pressures from the immediate landscape and the creation of middle ground spaces as a result however, is strong enough to stand on its own.

    Once entering the proposal the integration of spaces and uses seems to act flawlessly. The redefinition of libraries as bright, open, social spaces is a welcome one. The key to this function will be how these spaces are programmed and controlled by the library once the project is completed.

  • Matthew

    The interior experience is nice, consisting of many sectional relationships. This would make the space much more lively and interesting, while still maintaining the programmatic necessities of a library.

  • Anita

    As you can tell from the interior shots of the project I think it’s pretty safe to say that OMA is almost literally copying the Seattle Public Library and putting it into the context of Caen (probably due to the success of the seattle public library). But I feel that this project is NOT EVEN CLOSE to as brilliant as the seattle public library which is possibly due to the fact that Prince Ramus is no longer involved. Their argument that the form “points” to these various sites like the abbey aux dames, the abbey aux hommes, transportation station, and the new developments is entirely an arbitrary move that ‘happens’ to form this perfect X. There is little instance when architecture ‘point’ and it actually works. The only project I can think of that successfully points is Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This project is simply a way to draw in modern developments into an otherwise historic city by use of OMA’s name and the world’s familiarization with the seattle public library.