With the goal of creating the perfect environment for study, Foster and Partners restored the Free University Philology Library in Berlin, Germany. David Nelson, senior partner in charge, imagined a light-filled, environmentally-efficient building where students could enjoy spending hundreds of hours. The stunning design represented a culmination of decades of research that explored how buildings can utilize technology while increasing energy efficiency and reducing the impact on the environment.
From the outside the aerodynamic water-drop design stands out amongst sharp edges and flat surfaces. The external shell alternates opaque white aluminum paneling and transparent glazed glass. The arched roof permits natural light during the day and illuminates at night, creating a dynamic bubble that earned the library its nickname, ‘Berlin Brain.’ The round dome in a sea of square buildings is also flanked by six formal outside spaces that play into an interconnected pathway and organizational structure meant to stimulate communication amongst faculty and students.
The interior is marked by a series of four independent floors stacked in undulating curves. Seating runs continuously around each floor allowing access to book collections located in the central core. The design achieved the maximum amount of floor space within a minimum footprint, ample outdoor courtyard areas, and similar scale to the surrounding campus buildings. The $66 million project boasts collections from 11 separate libraries.
The checkered aluminum shell with glass panels helps to modify temperatures inside depending on Berlin’s weather. For 60% of the year the library can be naturally ventilated, which results in 35% less energy consumption than a comparable building. The structure glows with natural light during the day, while casting subtle shadows inside and allows unobstructed views to the sky. Supporting the delicate white envelope is a supporting steel frame painted a bright yellow accent color.
Foster and Partners approached the project with integrity towards the original design by French engineer, Jean Prouve. Each opportunity to duplicate features with the original supplier, refurbish fixtures, and replace the panel facade were capitalized – crediting the original design as ahead of its time. Norman Foster celebrated the completed project of the Free University Library with an opening ceremony. The overall redevelopment was able to restore the existing building while reflecting modern teaching practices and study habits.
information and photography courtesy of Arch Daily
DISCLAIMER: The following project does not feature Alucobond® aluminum composite material (ACM). The “Industry (Architecture)” section of our blog focuses on extraordinary architectural works from around the world. While this project does not feature our ACM, we have included comparable samples to what was used in the project above.