On the site of a former industrial warehouse, Andrea Maffei Architects (along with Arata Isozaki) have realized a new public library filled with light and bound by an undulating curtain wall. Before construction ever began, Maffei and Isozaki beat out 150 other teams for the opportunity to realize a new library for the city of Maranello, Italy. In their solution, a solid wall surrounds the perimeter of the site, and the plan looks not unlike someone has drawn a cloud or amoeba in a box. The library, itself, has a bright interior bound by curving glass walls. Between this glass wall and the solid site wall, a shallow pool of water surrounds most of the project, giving the impression of a serene interior. It doesn’t hurt that the interior of the project is mostly white.
Maybe I’m biased in how I read libraries, but the architects seem to be trying to establish a particular relationship between the sky and the ground. One that most buildings dont. From libraries conceived for patrons with their heads in the clouds, to libraries that avoid the ground or simply resemble the outline of a cloud, it seems that when you want to read, a good many architects think the first thing you have to do is leave the ground. In older libraries and art museums, this separation was much more monumental, with a giant wall of steps leading away from the street and into a kind of knowledge vault. But these are all smaller projects built in a time when information exchange has lost hierarchy and the modes of exchange are less clearly defined. Now, it somehow makes sense for all these different proposals to engage their surroundings the ways they do. It somehow makes sense for moats to appear in projects without irony.