Thursday, March 1, 2007

University Library of Utrecht

The Library of Utrecht University is part of the urban planning by Rhem Koolhaus' office OMA. Though simple and minimal in design, most monolithic structures tend to be an overwhelming and imposing visual element on a site (especially an urban site like the university's). However, the architect of the library employs several techniques and incorporates several subtle details that successfully break up the cubic mass. For example, the exterior of the building is a patchwork of glass and black concrete. In addition, large panels of glass punch out from the exterior wall reflecting the interior spaces within and breaking up the otherwise uninterrupted expanse of wall. Finally, both glass and concrete are detailed with an image of reeds (taken from a Swiss photographer) which lends the building texture, again lessening the overall severity. While the reeds are simply a print on the glass, maintaining its planar quality, the image is actually an impression in the concrete creating a subtle two dimensional element to the building's surface.
The simplistic black and grey elegance of the exterior palette continues into the interior of the building as does the textured concrete. Many photographers actually find the black interior extremely difficult to photograph because of the almost 'black hole' effect of the interior. However, in designing the interior of the building, the architects decided that the architecture should act as the background for the interior with the books and students providing the color and character within the building.
Sarah Wade

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