Printer Friendly

Between the lines: With his latest public library, Josep Llinas gives form to his detailed reading of central Barcelona's intricate city grain.

Jaume Fuster Library responds to a very specific urban situation. Unlike the bulk of Barcelona, characterised and regulated by Cerda's chamfered grid, the bustling neighbourhood of Gracia has a more haphazard and densely packed urban grain. On the slopes that rise toward Gaudi's celebrated Park Guell, when emerging from Lesseps subway the topography takes unsuspecting visitors by surprise. Blighted by ongoing infrastructure improvements to the four-lane highway that tunnels beneath Placa de Lesseps, the intimacy and peacefulness of ramblas and square seems far removed. Here, a more hectic and chaotic view is assembled as the city is compressed against its mountainous boundary; a scenographic backdrop that very much determined the approach taken by this building's architect: the Catalan, Josef Llinas.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Llinas has worked in Barcelona all his life, graduating from the city's school of architecture in 1969 before spending 19 years lecturing under the professorship of Rafael Moneo. Throughout his forty-year career, as with many architects, his work has seen a gradual shift towards an increasing level of geometric freedom. When reviewing work from the 1980s and early '90s, rarely would he be seen to deviate from orthogonal formal assemblages.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Early projects such as Detached House in Begur, the Cerdanyola-Ripollet Health Centre and the School of Engineering buildings all broadly conformed to tenets of International Modernism, albeit with hints of expressionism with accentuated formal horizontality articulated by extended bands of vertically modulated glazing. More recently, perhaps in response to increasingly complex sites and programmes, his work seems to have extended some of these subtle expressionist tendencies in what has been described by Juan Antonio Cortes as Llinas' 'permanent renunciation of the finished, rounded architectural object'.

With new preoccupations that seek to disfigure the prism, undo formalities and make buildings disappear, built on a thorough understanding of his home city where the majority of his work has been carried out, no longer does the rotundity of the object prevail. Instead, he decomposes and chops, steps and subtracts, envelops and adds to forms while seeking to deny frontality, break alignments and amplify contrasting geometries. Despite such anarchic ambitions, however, as proven by this building, Llinas still manages to develop buildings that sit comfortably as unified wholes; eccentrically planned--yet centred; abstractly disfigured--yet compositionally balanced, the Jaume Fuster Library serves as a delightful summary of Llinas' recently pronounced architectural obligations.

Within a complex urban situation, the form of this building has an inherent multi-sidedness, based on three formal priorities that respond to the irregular geometries of Placa de Lesseps to the south; to the concavity of La Riera de Vallcarca to the west; and to future plans to extend a linear park from the north. Avoiding the inclination to mimic the frontality of the adjacent school building (with its forced symmetry overlooking the busy highway), Llinas chose to anchor his building by pushing it hard against the re-entrant edge of La Riera de Vallcarca. Deriving a diamond shaped plan (by mirroring the alignment of existing facades), the building generates a strong duality between the narrow street to the west and the new piazza that opens up to the east; a duality that is expressed in section as the building's form is drawn down toward the piazza by a series of low level roof plates and canopies that extend to diminish the building's apparent height.

In plan, the main three-storey volume contains the principal spaces of the library, with auditorium and archive spaces below; reception, media reading room, gallery and cafe/bar on the entrance level; and two principal reading levels above. While relatively regular in plan, it is through the adaptation of this form that Llinas begins to deny any so-called rotundity.

With prow-like ends, the diamond plan also gave Llinas the opportunity to undo any trace of centralised formality by using each end to create a distinct head and tail, bringing a longitudinal emphasis and orientation with a head that turns the south-eastern corner to address the two principal public spaces. With the extension of canopies at ground level (above the media room and main entrance lobby), and the mezzanine loft space placed at the centre of the plan, the building is given a distinctive silhouette that serves to renunciate its otherwise symmetrical form and complete figure. Subtle adjustments to the roofscape are also justified in practical terms as the width of the internal spaces is optimised to bring sufficient daylight from both sides through a series of vertically modulated strip windows set between each of the individual roof plates. Overlooked by neighbours, the introduction of light through vertical incisions avoided the need to break up the roofscape, thereby allowing it to be read internally and externally as a unified enveloping surface.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

When describing the internal environment of the library, despite recognising the inevitability that libraries will increasingly generate more sociable programmes (with the increase in multi-media formats and shared learning techniques), Llinas draws parallels between the library type and the nature of sacred buildings. And, when shaping this sequence of spaces, he recalls how light and sound were prioritised to control sound transmission between places of silence and interchange, balancing light levels with both natural and artificial sources.

Throughout the two main reading floors there is a wide variety of environments ranging from more orthodox spaces, such as the rectangular galleried reading room, to the more expressive spaces such as the cavernous study bays to the south; with each nook and cranny adding to the diversity of places. To the west, you can sit by the window, pausing from study to look down the narrow street; or to the east, you can appreciate more expansive views when raising your eyes from your books. And when unified by the Sizaesque palette of materials used by Llinas, the interior spaces have a calm and resonant continuity.

Despite rumours that a new library was not the most popular choice of building for this prominent site--with local residents suggesting alternative facilities such as a leisure centre or gymnasium--and without dwelling on cash-flow difficulties experienced due to the reallocation of funds to meet the overspend on the city's international forum in 2004--when you visit the building today, eight months after its completion, it would appear to be an extremely popular new destination. The library is busy, and on the ground floor, the cafe, media reading room, and exhibition space are all extremely well attended as casual passers-by are drawn in from the semi-complete new square. All that remains now is for the city to complete its broader landscape vision so that the building's external environment is as vibrantly settled as those on the interior.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
COPYRIGHT 2006 EMAP Architecture
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Gregory, Rob
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:1133
Previous Article:Midwest modesty: As part of an ambitious landscape regeneration strategy, Chipperfield brings figure to the city grid.
Next Article:Les chambres de bois: Montreal's handsome new Bibliotheque is a lively repository of Quebecois culture.
Topics:


Related Articles
Canadian civitas.
More on building futures ...
Australian Bookstart: a national issue, a compelling case. A report to the nation by Friends of Libraries Australia (FOLA).
Save the library.
Reader development and advice in public libraries.
New Zealand mechanics' institutes and their effect on public library development.
Midwest modesty: As part of an ambitious landscape regeneration strategy, Chipperfield brings figure to the city grid.
From refuge to risk: public libraries and children in World War I.
From reading guidance to thought control: wartime Japanese libraries.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters