Although nearly fifteen years old, the visionary TU Delft Library is still an excellent example of forward-thinking sustainable design. Mecanoo Architecten's vision was to develop a light-filled landmark that would serve as “a gateway to the digital highway”. What they achieved is a public place that is not only a core for information, but also features a prodigious public green roof for people to explore, relax and play.
While we have been overwhelmed by many mountainous green buildings over the past year, the Tu Delf library has been the go-to place since to climb a hill in Delft, Netherlands since 1997. Visitors can catch some sun on the inclined lawn during the warmer months, and when it snows the roof makes for the best sledding in town — after all, where else are you going to find a hill in the Netherlands? The green roof also provides the interior with a much reduced need for cooling and helps the Delft University of Technology campus control storm water runoff.
The interior is anchored by the building’s dramatic cone, which pierces the roof and serves as a central source of daylight. A skylight, which wraps the cone, bounces light off the inclined surface to penetrate the main hall with natural illumination. Inside the cone, a series of smaller study rooms are crowed by another skylight.
Behind the sweeping bank of windows are workstations separated from the archives by a bank of vision glass. This keeps the library accessible while containing its functions. The sparse interior is highlighted by a large bank of shelves to the side which are accessible by catwalks. Heat and light is distributed by the forest of columns.
The library makes a symbolic gesture through its green roof, which rises like a sheet of paper into the air, while the cone secures it into place, like a pushpin. The architects explain that the cone is a symbol of technology. The playful approach feels a bit like a Claes Oldenburg sculpture transformed into architecture – a familiar shape produced on a grand scale.
Photos © TU Delft Library on flickr