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American Memorial Library, Berlin, Germany

architecture construction

American Memorial Library, Berlin, Germany

Program: Open-stack library
Client: Amerika Gedenk Bibliothek
Project Manager: Stephen Cassell
Site area: 94,000 square feet
Status: Competition completed 1988

CONCEPT: This project was awarded first prize in an invited competition for an addition to th 757o1421h e Amerika Gedenk Bibliothek in Berlin and surrounding area. The design extends the philosophical position of the open stack - the unobstructed meeting of the reader and the book - by organizing the offerings around a browsing circuit. The circuit is a public path looping the building, presenting the collection of the entire library. The library stacks are developed as furniture, giving different characteristics to areas of the open plan. The concept of a browsing circuit is given memorable variety by these different stack arrangements.

The circuit forms a slipped ring bracketing the original building. The extension holds the original building in space without overpowering or deferring to it. Proportions of all major architectural elements, including interior and exterior spaces and structural grid, are determined by a single series (1:1.618) based on the height of the existing building.

The importance of the site within the city plan is expressed by making the library a major urban element, analogous to a city gate. The north face of the library addition defines the south edge of the new Blucherplatz. Additional buildings to the east and west, containing public programs, complete the definition of space. A clearly defined public park to the east and west strengthens the connection to the Holy Cross Church. The tower offers a public observation point - a lens focused on the city - and supports the children's library. Suspended over the original building, the library elevates children to caretakers of the city. It has sloped floors for reading while lying down. The structure is a lattice truss sheathed in sandblasted glass with vision panels.

The main structure is an exposed concrete frame with glass curtain walls of sandblasted white, amber and blue glass set off by areas of lead or stainless-steel covered panels. Under the grey skies of Berlin, the effects of east and west light in the library will be highly varied according to the sandblasted lines and mullion patterns in the curtain walls. For the interior, careful attention has been given to acoustics to assure silence, while natural materials and subdued colors have been selected for their contributions to a serene and reflective mood.


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