Project team:

Client: City of Stuttgart/D
Project management: Drees + Sommer, Stuttgart/D
Architect: Eun Young Yi, Cologne/D and Seoul/ROK
Lighting planning and electrical engineering:
Conplaning GmbH, Neu-Ulm/D
Structural engineering: Boll und Partner, Stuttgart/D
Furnishings: Totems Communication, Stuttgart/D

Products applied:

Quintessence (different versions), Erco

05. May 2012

Time to chill
The new public library in Stuttgart/D

Text: Joachim Ritter, Sandra Lindner
Photos: Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart, Thomas Pflaum DGPh, Kai Loges, Andreas Langen

In 2010, the German Word of the Year was “Wutbürger”, meaning Outraged Citizen. Why did they opt for this particular word? It was a word that cropped up in the news a lot that year, especially in reports about the angry citizens of Stuttgart, who took to the streets for months on end to protest against the politicians’ decision to build a new, but extremely expensive, main railway station in the city centre. It was not so much about the quality of the project, but rather about the fact that the citizens appeared to have very little, if any, influence on political processes. Besides the railway station project, the comprehensive city planning project known as Stuttgart 21 also includes the new public library. The new library’s image consequently also suffered in the wake of the discussions and hold-ups. Wrongly so, since the building is designed as a place in which to chill and to promote intellectual debate.

The people of Stuttgart have become very wary of any new building projects in their city and are not backward in voicing their criticism. There is a general lack of openness towards modern-day architectural design and it is hard to convince people that it can make a positive difference to an urban environment. People are too ready to condemn the strict form of a cube based on a simple square grid as boring and monotonous. Some were even heard drawing comparisons to the famous ‘local’ high-security prison in Stammheim, which became known internationally in the seventies through the German terrorists who were inmates there. One might have thought that the rationalist architectural design purported by Oswald Mathias Ungers was a thing of the past, or at least out of date to a certain extent. Ungers’ overall architectural philosophy was based on the use of cubic forms, almost to excess. One thing is certain: severity features strongly in the spatial quality of purist architecture. That can work throughout the entire building – from the facade through to the core of the cube, provided the purist design is treated with the right light.
In retrospect, Korean architect Eun Young Yi, who designed the new cube-shaped public library in Stuttgart, was even able to share a joke about the delays in the building programme: “This must be about the nicest book prison I have ever seen”. Now the new library has been opened after a construction phase of around three years complaints are beginning to ebb away. Visitors appear to like the unusual inner life of this cube-shaped structure. The architectural lighting has a calming effect, providing orientation within an environment with very little contrast. It meets the requirements for visual comfort in a library space and helps cultivate an appropriate image. […]

The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 83.

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