Earlier this year, the Municipality of Varna and the Chamber of Architects in Bulgaria invited architects worldwide to submit proposals for a new building to house the Library of Varna. The 130-year institution, which boasts over 860,000 items in its collection, has long been spread out in six different buildings throughout the city of Varna, Bulgaria’s third largest city and home to the century-old Black Sea port. To add to that, Varna hasn’t had a proper “official” library building “for years”, as described by the competition organizers.
The new building would help achieve the Library’s mission to haul their collection under one roof, as well as create a new public space for the city.
Out of 370 entries, three winners were announced:
ARCHITECTS FOR URBANITY, NETHERLANDS
Subtracting a large longitudinal void across a compact orthogonal volume, we propose a symbolic gesture that creates ‘air’, space for the etheric body – the knowledge – to be developed. The open space of knowledge divides therefore the mass of the building into two solid volumes. The backside volume is fragmented in three large zones, so that on the back of the building a ‘spine’ is created, a well-structured verticality that accommodates the archive and the administration. The slabs of the two remaining volumes are shifted; the void is distorted. The ground-based volume is shifted towards the city, opening up knowledge to the public. Geometric contour lines form a climax, bare the library’s fetish, the books and the book stacks. The climax unfolds till the ground floor and expands outside the building. The ’library’ is given back to the city. The floating volume performs as a condensed act of knowledge; an Act On the book; ‘devouring’ the books; absorbing knowledge; learning
The program is compressed in plan in order to leave the big trees zone intact. This screens the scale of the building dissolving it into the park. The existing parking is unfolded up and down into a spiral ramp structure rooted in the ground and bringing the park to the top. The library starts from the park level where the open access zone is. Then going up the controlled and the restricted access zones follow. A public vertical pathway leading to the roof garden with sea and city views doubles the whole structure from the outside. The public car parking is going down starting from the street level. It has a visual contact with the deep storage of the library. The ramp structure allows compact space integration and effective communications in the building. The access to the roof serves as an easy evacuation route. Internal spaces are free of mass and open to the trees outside. Activities, cars and books are stocked in the same effective and spectacular way in a single homogeneous structure.
SPATIAL PRACTICE, HONG KONG
The Varna Public Library grows from the existing public space network. Visitors strolling along Varna’s green public passage, will be led into the new Library adjacent the Municipality Hall. The library floats above the heavy concrete archives which hold Varna’s vast library collection and history. Using local materials for the timber mullions provide warmth, elegance and softness to the surrounding concrete neighbourhood, it also shows Varna’s commitment to sustainability, and recalls memories of Varna’s relationship with timber. The project will become a new public living room for visitors and local residents in Varna. The folding facade lures visitors into the internal street at its heart; bringing a new element to the existing public space system. The rigid, flexible floorplates become playful with free flowing reading spaces at its periphery. The library embodies the idea of reading on a wooden terrace, feeling a gentle breeze, overlooking the sea.