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  1. ArchDaily
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  3. Library
  4. Sweden
  5. Gunnar Asplund
  6. 1928
  7. AD Classics: Stockholm Public Library / Gunnar Asplund

AD Classics: Stockholm Public Library / Gunnar Asplund

AD Classics: Stockholm Public Library / Gunnar Asplund
AD Classics: Stockholm Public Library / Gunnar Asplund

AD Classics: Stockholm Public Library / Gunnar Asplund AD Classics: Stockholm Public Library / Gunnar Asplund AD Classics: Stockholm Public Library / Gunnar Asplund AD Classics: Stockholm Public Library / Gunnar Asplund +12

  • Architects

  • Location

    Stockholm, Sweden
  • Architect

    Gunnar Asplund
  • References

    Dennis Sharp, Dan Cruickshank
  • Project Year

    1928

From the architect. In the early 1900s, the concept of a public library was being adopted by the City of Stockholm in Sweden. Gunnar Asplund was initially hired to help determine the requirements for a public library and then prepare a competition open to all architects. 

Beginning his research in the United States, Asplund saw first hand examples of the most developed library system in the world. He became very informed and when the building committee realized the strength that he had in his understandings and ideas, they decided he would be the most suitable architect for the job.

The site of the library rests beside a steep hill, which influenced the designs of Asplund from the beginning as he did not want the library to be overpowered by it's environment; thus he decided on a compact, orange-colored mass. He was sure that the form would be heavy and massive throughout the design process, but had much deliberation over multiple different organizational schemes.

Upon the start of the project, Asplund placed the library on the corner of the L-shaped parcel of land. The other two parts of the land would be used for other community spaces; one would become a park, the other a market hall. While the library was being constructed, Asplund entered and won a competition to design the park adjacent to the library. 

He envisioned a large rectilinear pond surrounded with flowing streams and waterfalls, although the final design was modified to be more probable. The building committee also asked him to design the market hall, although this portion of the project was never built.

The classic style of the architecture is revealed in the neoclassical composition of the parti. Interior reading rooms form a square with an open courtyard in the center of the library, which is almost entirely filled by a round lending hall. Beginning as a dome, the lending hall eventually became a tall cylinder for structural, economical and formal reasons. The only points of accessibility to the central area of the library are found at the four tangent points.

The processional entrance to the library that is found at the end of a dramatic staircase is marked by high walls of polished black stucco. Walls along the circular courtyard on all levels are lined with books and beautifully detailed wooden bookcases.

As the eye continues up the interior, a contrasting rough stucco wall jets upwards towards the top of the cylinder, where the room is filled with light through the high clerestory windows. The hanging chandelier made of white opalescent glass is upwardly concaved, allowing it to capture light from the windows and take on an intense glow as it becomes a focal point in the vast open space.

The children's library is located on the ground floor in one of the side wings, adjacent to a specifically designed room intended to be used for story telling. Here, Asplund commissioned painter Nils Dardel to paint a mural of discovery, adventure, and fantasy in the reading niche.

Courtesy of MOMA
Courtesy of MOMA

Architects and authors have studied the library over the past few decades, some finding the library to be a symbol of the human mind. Whether or not it was designed with the human brain in mind, the beauty captured in incorporating the bookshelves as a design strategy is remarkable, especially under the tall white cylinder and abundance of natural phenomenal light.

Courtesy of MOMA
Courtesy of MOMA
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Megan Sveiven. "AD Classics: Stockholm Public Library / Gunnar Asplund" 01 Dec 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/92320/ad-classics-stockholm-public-library-gunnar-asplund/>
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35 Comments

prakhar arora · March 09, 2016

What are the inscriptions on outside walls of the library? Are those of vikings? Where can i find more info about it? Thanks

Rich Kretzschmar · October 17, 2014

The Asplund legend live on till today a century later as here in the Highlands of various districts of Northern Illinois - roadway crews maintain the land with Asplund machinery. I wonder if the notion of the Asp is part of this mainstream media as the word asphalt also has it as part of it's bodies assembly. Research indicates that the surname Lund refers to massed trees or shrubs. It is also said that in the Hindi language this notion of both Lund and Asp together represent the loin portion of a mans plowing tool. In other words the MeRAK.

Paquita · June 04, 2012

Chandelier in #Stockholm Public Library gathers its own light till it glows over stunning circular array of bookshelves http://t.co/MUTvJTax

Yahya Abudaiah ? · December 14, 2011

???????? ???? ????? ?.???? . @Arch_Faisal @arch_baageel @FaLLmoosh @Aziz_Moh http://t.co/tRWVFrNA http://t.co/EV8bjeKw @a_alshahwan

e_a_r_l_y · September 10, 2011

????????????????http://t.co/oUYHICB

gk · January 04, 2011

thanks for the update MZ, i actually entered that competition as a student. the beauty of competitions is studying the areas rich history and on this particular occasion really appreciate asplunds library!

KChavda · December 12, 2010

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aristide antonas · December 07, 2010

A visit to this library after much tear gas in Athens http://www.archdaily.com/92320...

Barbora Miklášová · December 03, 2010

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Fero Alian Volar · December 03, 2010

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MZ · December 02, 2010

An iconic building, a perfect whole - as such almost impossible to add anything. There is the very peculiar story of the competition for the extension of the building from a few years ago. A world-wide-open anonym competition, no planing-licence needed (Sweden is one of the few countries in the world, where the profession of architects is not protected, anybody can call himself one, regardless of education or practice), no entrance fee, no invitations, every material provided as online download, only two A0 sheets to hand in - as democratic as possible, sweden shows the world what it means, playing by fair means. The result? Over 1000 entries from all over the world, and after two phases and five months the winner announced: a hardly known theory-professor from Weimar, Germany (Heike Hanada), with a rather conventional glas building wins. Then the aftermath: growing protests an all political and civil levels, financing problems, reluctant new city government, interests and lobbies at work. Few years later is one of the most democratic competitions of the last decade is announced to be failed, the city of Stockholm backs out, the result is declared an error, a new site with a new program is in vision - the Slussen developement.
The moral of the story? Sometimes, the way to hell is paved with good intensions. To err is human...

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eduard jeanneret · December 02, 2010

Great building, great composition, great architecture.
Thank you for posting it!

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