Copenhagen Gallery

Humanities Library

The Humanities Library preseves the past while looking into the future.

How do you design a new library in a world where bookshelves are becoming out of date?

The Humanities Library catapults its users forward to a future in which, to an ever-increasing degree, they make use of digital media and search methods rather than the old analog ones.

When the humanities library at the University of Copenhagen on Amager was to be extended in 2005 to create public facilities adjoining the library stores, the architects chose to involve the future users from the outset. In co-operation with a staff user group from The Danish Royal Library the architects analysed functional requirements and work processes in order to be able to create the optimum building design to meet the various needs of students and employees.

One of the outcomes of this process is that shelf space has been largely reduced. Gone are the endless rows of shelves usually associated with a public library. Instead books are kept in closed-access, climate-controlled stores, and if you want a book it can be ordered online and then collected in the library's newly added public spaces.

A heavy treasure chest

The library store consists of a massive seven-storey core block, proportioned to accommodate the shelves which together can hold as much as forty-five miles of books, periodicals and AV material. Completed in 1997 as the first phase of the library the store is temperature- and humidity-controlled to maintain optimum storage conditions for particularly sensitive or valuable material.

The facade around the stores is designed to minimise the impact of differing weather conditions: the outer layer consists of a system of ventilated cavities behind a lightweight aluminium screen, while the interior of the facade is a heavy, insulated box made of concrete and brick. The heavy construction helps ensure constant temperatures and humidity levels in the store.

Study with a view

Built on the outside of the store is a large, transparent extension arranged over three open and bright floors that house study, reading, information, and lending facilities, as well as a total of 500 reading desks.

The public spaces in the library are divided into different zones according to their level of noise. At the entrance on the ground floor visitors are welcomed by the staffed information desk. This floor also has a lounge and a café where people can sit down on the colourful furniture, linger and talk for a while. The first floor is laid out as a study zone where quiet conversation is permitted, while the second floor is a reading room.

Art and intelligent facades

From the outside, the new library appears as a shiny box of glass and aluminium. In front of the building a high glass bollard marking the main entrance rises into the sky. The slender column structure is decorated by artist Vibeke Mencke Nielsen, but it is not purely ornamental - it actually covers up part of the building's ventilation system.

The library's transparent facades create a visual connection with the rest of the university campus, and at the same time allow natural light to flood deep into the building. The double-skin facade has integral blinds which deflect unwanted solar heat and filter daylight into the building. Ventilation air is extracted through the cavity of the double facade, thus removing solar heat before it has any impact on indoor temperatures; similarly the cold air of winter is tempered by pre-heating ventilation air in the facade. The facade solution provides a comfortable indoor climate and maximum daylight penetration.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014