Jeroen Musch

Can this flashy library outside Rotterdam combat the town's 10 percent illiteracy rate?

The Dutch firm MVRDV has just completed its latest project: the Book Mountain and Library Quarter, both part of a larger plan to breathe new life into the town of Spijkenisse, located within the Rotterdam metropolitan area.

Located in the main town square next to a prominent church and surrounded by a small neighborhood of 42 housing units, the Book Mountain is quite literally a mountain of books. A series of commercial and community spaces are stacked into a pyramid-shaped structure, which is wrapped in a 480-meter-long bookcase.  The glass facades fully expose the library shelves, inviting people to step in and grab a book.

The flashy architecture was conceived as a way to address the community’s 10 percent illiteracy rate. Hoping to intrigue and instill interest, MVRDV designed the library as a huge advert for reading and placed it at the heart of the development. Besides the library, the 9,300-square-meter building houses an environmental education center, a chess club area, auditoriums, meeting rooms, commercial offices, and retail space.  A café at the top of the pyramid offers panoramic views of the town.

The shape of the building alludes to traditional Dutch farms, a reminder of the town’s agricultural past. Another reference to rural life resides in the bookshelf design, made of recycled flowerpots. Fireproof and economic, the versatile shelves accompany visitors throughout the building, merging with banisters, parapets, and the information desk.

The library has no air conditioning, relying instead on natural ventilation and sun screens to ensure a comfortable indoor climate. In winter, an innovative combination of underground heat storage, floor heating, and double glazing developed by Arcadis in collaboration with MVRDV keeps the building warm.

To visually connect the new structure to the existing townscape, the architects used a brick wall – a ubiquitous material in the local architecture – to separate the library from the rest of the building. This created a brick core visible through the glass walls.

The same material was used in the treatment of the surrounding piazza and in the residential buildings in the Library Quarter, creating a unifying image for the whole ensemble that further emphasizes the luring glow of the Book Mountain.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  2. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  3. photo: San Francisco skyline
    Equity

    Would Capping Office Space Ease San Francisco’s Housing Crunch?

    Proposition E would put a moratorium on new commercial real estate if affordable housing goals aren’t met. But critics aren’t convinced it would be effective.   

  4. a photo of a Dodge Challenger
    Transportation

    The ‘Airbnb of Cars’ Gets Heat From the Rental Car Industry

    Peer-to-peer sharing services that let owners rent out their vehicles are a focus of concern from traditional car rental companies, who see disruption ahead.

  5. photo: A woman crosses an overpass above the 101 freeway in Los Angeles, California.
    Transportation

    Navigation Apps Changed the Politics of Traffic

    In an excerpt from the new book The Future of Transportation, CityLab’s Laura Bliss adds up the “price of anarchy” when it comes to traffic navigation apps.

×