Officially opened in October 2012, MVRDV’s Book Mountain in Spijkenisse, the Netherlands has been nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies van der Rohe Award 2013. Presented every two years to an exemplary architecture project in the European Union, the highly regarded prize celebrates the contribution of European architects who are pushing the boundaries of modern design.
MVRDV’s Spijkenisse Book Mountain is a bold form which looks to engage the local community with print literature. During the design process MVRDV explored the ways in which a new library building could entice people to reconnect with the physical text in a world so dependent on virtual reading. In recent years, there has been a dramatic impact on libraries worldwide as people have begun to turn away from such institutions and download literature via mobile apps and onto devices such as the Kindle.
To combat this, the design studio dreamt of ‘a magnificent shop window for knowledge, information and culture that unambiguously promotes the idea of reading day and night’. The result is Book Mountain. A towering pyramid of physical texts encased in a glass bell jar through which the community of Spijkenisse can view others losing themselves in books and be inspired to partake.
Spread over 10,000 sq m, the building sports a glass façade that transforms into a transparent sloping roof through which external light from streetlamps can penetrate, reducing energy demands. At the base of the façade is a 9m-high opaque band to keep in line with neighbouring buildings and anchor the library to its context. Internally, simple wooden trusses enable a generous, column-free span which gives a light and airy feel to the main volume.
At the core of Book Mountain is the pyramid of books from which the building takes its name. A series of terraces hold the bookcases which can rise to 1.8m in height, above which are a number of additional spaces for archives, obsolete collections, signage and technical equipment, accessed by movable steps and platforms. Behind the bookshelves (inside the ‘mountain’) are the less public administration functions. On the ground floor are a number of commercial units with office space on the first floor. The second-fifth floors hold the private study spaces, exhibition areas, technical rooms and collection of permanent texts.