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Varna Contemporary Library

Type. Architecture, Public Building

Location. Varna, Bulgaria
Date. 2015
Client. Competition

Status. Concept Design

Size. 18,218 sqm

Project Description.

Our scheme places the central storage unit of the library at the heart of the building acting as the background to the rest of the library's activities. Where typically due to the very stringent climatic requirements book storage facilities are secluded in underground or confined quarters, we have chosen to cluster the central storage in a vertical transparent volume whose interiors are visible to all users within the library. We have done so as a way of celebrating the dynamics of book storage operations and taking advantage of the very unique aesthetics associated with optimized shelving systems.


To manage the temperature and humidity within the central storage we have implemented a number of passive cooling strategies. As a start we have designed the building's envelope as a semi-opaque container. We have done so by incorporating shading modules clipped to the glazing units to filter sunlight from the east, south and west. The perforated white metallic shading components reflect heat and radiation and filter light through; this is normally defined as high Solar Reflective Index or Albedo and is a key strategy in energy performance of buildings. In addition the sensitive central storage is flanked by two full height atriums acting as the "lungs" of the building and regulating the air flow and temperature. The hot air travels gradually to the top during the day and it's then released by night on to the cooler atmosphere. This self regulating principle reduces significantly the need of mechanical cooling and ventilation.


The reading areas are stacked vertically towards the front facade of the building connected by both lifts and staircases. The strategy for the planning of the reading areas differentiates between storing and reading. So while the center of the floor plate has a minimum floor to ceiling height to maximize shelving efficiency, the edges open pockets of double height spaces for reading, studying and seating.


The administration functions are clustered towards the back end of the building providing a more private and quiet environment. The admin unit leads directly to the storage through sky bridges which also lead to the main lobbies of the reading areas.


To maximize open air and landscaped areas we have sliced the building horizontally and opened terraces and gardens in different levels. By doing so we are able to provide a multiplicity of spaces with different qualities, seating arrangements and formats. The top of the building is crowned with a sky garden with dedicated access from the ground floor. This space is intended to be universally accessed by the whole public and not only restricted to members of the library. Finally the landscape has been designed aiming to provide a variety of uses and speeds of travel; we have preserved the width of the pedestrian promenade and added benches, vegetation and a cycle lane. There is also a direct access from the plaza to the underground parking and links to the municipality building.

Project Team: 
Rolando Rodriguez-Leal, Natalia Wrzask, Kai Wertel

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