The new library is located on a large rectangular plot in the centre of Girona. Bounded to the north by the busy Avenue Emili Grahit, the site is embedded within a dense and compact neighbourhood of tall residential blocks. These urban conditions – plus the fact that this is the largest library in the network of public libraries in Catalunya – contributed to the development of a design strategy based on two main considerations.
First of all, given its civic and cultural importance, it was decided to differentiate the library from the surrounding residential fabric, both in terms of its form and its materials.
Secondly, while the design responds to the new functional challenges of a present-day library as a place of social interaction for young and old, it also reclaims the traditional role of the library as a place for reading, study and quiet reflection.
The various functional areas have been distributed over the building’s four floors according to the corresponding user groups and activities. Visitors enter from the new public plaza into the open and dynamic ground floor that contains the children’s library and playroom, an auditorium, exhibition gallery, cafeteria, and a place for reading newspapers and viewing videos. On the upper two floors there are the specialised areas of interest and spaces for reading, consultation and investigation. The administrative offices are located at basement level, with access limited to the library personnel.
A large, open staircase connects the three public levels. In addition to allowing for fluid vertical circulation, the staircase is a key element for understanding the spatial continuity inside the library, which is organised around three internal courtyards.
While the transparent glass walls make all the courtyards extensions of the interior spaces, each one assumes its own identity.
The layout of the central courtyard transforms it into a large funnel that brings natural light down into the heart of the building. The exuberant, full-height, green wall is a backdrop for the sequence of platforms created by the shifting geometry. A rectangle at basement level it becomes a square onthe ground floor and then a double square on the first floor. On the top floor, the patio opens up to become a square four times the size of the ground level.
The square courtyard on the south side features a tree in the middle and extends from the first to the second floors. The third patio is a single-height square on the north-east corner. The principle protagonist of the library is the light in its many variations.
The square-shaped volume is almost entirely glazed with U-glass, punctuated by sections of transparent glass, flooding the interior with a diffuse light, especially pleasant for reading, while framing views of the surrounding neighbourhood. At night the library glows like a giant urban lantern, welcoming everyone to enter and become part of this place of knowledge, culture and community life.
The sustainability aspects are an integral part of the project concept and the library was awarded the ‘Class A’ energy certification of the European Union for the maximisation of natural light, construction with recycled low-maintenance materials, and a bioclimatic double U-glass façade. In addition, the building has maximum thermal insulation, a ventilated roof and a green wall and courtyard system.