Continuity and Change Over Time in the Safety of the Libraries

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Table of Contents

  • The Importance of Architecture and Interior Design
  • Different Design Approaches Towards Libraries During the History
  • Most Famous and Beautiful Libraries in Romania
  • Design Proposal

''I had found my religion: nothing seemed more important to me than a book. I saw the library as a temple'' (- ''The Words''- The Autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre), how everyone should see a library. Nowadays, we tend to forget the importance of these iconic buildings that host impressive data and history well-kept in thick covers over the years. 

This case study will try to enhance the value of these collections, through records and archives and how they preserve continuity and change over time, but also helped by architectural proofs. Also, it aims to enlarge a comparison between old and new, the transition to the nowadays's design and how architecture an change the way we are looking at these buildings. But first, what does ''library'' actually mean? Traditionally, it is an assemblage of books with the use of reading or studying, either an area where such collections are kept for years. It also represents a place meant for keeping the legal, historical, religious records of civilization from the middle of the 20th century. They can also include reference work, such as encyclopedias, novels, poetry, short novels, photographs or music scores. The word occurs from the Latin word ''liber'', even if a Latinized Greek word, ''bibliotheca'' is used for ''library'' in German, Russian and Romance languages.

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In the Classical period, Persia (550-330 BC) represented one of the main areas of several important libraries at that time. Even so, the most significant institution of the ancient world was The Library of Alexandria, in Egypt. In comparison, private libraries appeared during the late republic. On the other hand, in the West, the Roman Empire was the location for the public libraries.

During the Late Antiquity and Middle-Ages periods, these institutions developed more in the East, toward the Byzantine Empire, where existed four types of libraries: imperial, patriarchal, monastic and private. At the other end of the spectrum, the first atheneum in Muslim countries were not necessarily libraries, due to the traditions and history used to be oral. However, though, some words from the Quran required to be written down, and so the best place to preserve them was the Mosques. In the Early Middle Ages, monastery libraries owned manuscripts. In European institutes, bookcases used to be arranged parallel to the walls, ''wall system'' that was first implemented in Spain's El Escorial. The 17th and 18th centuries were known as a golden age of libraries, where most of the important ones where founded in Europe. At the start of the 19th century, the Chetham Library in Manchester in Britain was the only one important that was open and accessible to the public. In the 21st century though, the libraries start to be designed to adapt to the people's needs, including digital services and more friendly space.

The Importance of Architecture and Interior Design

Beyond the building, architecture, and interior design can help bring balance in daily lives. Architecture makes us understand the landscape, but also the context of the buildings, starting from ancient times and progressing to present life. Even if it is a way of expressing ideas and feelings, it is not the same with painting, drawing, creating music, dancing or writing, for the simple fact that architects design for a living. Architecture is the art created in which you can breathe and live in. Also, it represents an important factor in the culture of human beings. Throughout time, buildings as Empire State Building, Notre Dame, Taj Mahal or Sydney Opera House, reflected the story of that time, connecting past, present and future, bringing the community together at the same time. Even if architecture is seen as the creation of an environment in which people live, and the libraries were created to assure that the important documents are well-kept, the idea of interior design changed the way individuals look at these buildings. Helped by the materials, use of lights and shadows, the colors, creating the atmosphere, people are starting to be involved in an experience rather than just living in a certain space. Even if the first interior design book ''The House in Good Taste'' by Elsie de Wolfe was published in 1913, the idea of creating an aesthetically pleasing environment started to develop promptly in the following years.

Different Design Approaches Towards Libraries During the History

From the very beginning until now, architecture and design have been changed continuously, a fact that can be seen in the development of the libraries. Even if the aim started to change in the 21st century, the interior of the space still needs to adapt to everyone's' needs. Looking back in History, Admont Abbey, Austria, encloses the oldest monastery library in the world, known for the Baroque architecture, art and archives. The Library Hall, which was built in 1776, is 70 meters long, 14 meters wide and 13 meters in height. It contains 70.000 volumes, Abbey maintaining 1400 manuscripts. The ceiling dwells seven cupolas, embellished with frescos by Bartolomeo Altomonte, displaying the stages of human knowledge until the Divine Revelation. Forty-eight windows provide the natural light, the color scheme being kept as white and gold. The ideals that have been followed for design and architecture are based on ''Enlightenment'', the movement that encapsulated all the intellectual and philosophical ideas of the 18th century. All the architecture details work together to reach the purity of a Monastery, giving you the sense of History within the space.

On the other hand, after almost one hundred years, is built the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, 1837. Located in the center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is listed by the State Institute of Central Heritage. The building is made in Neo-Manueline style (Gothic-Renaissance), between 1800-1887. The interior was the first to include an appealing chandelier and a skylight in an iron structure which was a new category of architecture in Brazil at that time. The hall includes a silver, ivory and marble monument (The Altar of the Homeland) which has a height of 17 meters. The tall walls covered with old books, the paintings and many other pieces of cultural Portugal create a historical atmosphere. The reading room owns a stained-glass dome and large galleries, that share an ancient cathedral feel.

One hundred years later, 1973, The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto was opened, being the largest repository of rare books and manuscripts in Canada. The tall walls filled with books and the open space remind of The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading. The building has the name of Thomas Fisher, who came to Canada in 1821. His great-sons donated in 1973 their personal collections of Shakespeare, Wenceslaus Hollar, and other twentieth-century writers, but also papyrus documents.

This space is part of the Roberts Library, built in 1973, made of reinforced cast-in-place concrete. It is considered an example of Brutalist architecture in North America. The historic building has overhead clerestory glazing at the mezzanine's top level.

It is said to be the ''most magical library in the world''. It has six floors, holding 740.000 books and 400 manuscripts. All the visitors can have the opportunity to get a sense of history through the library's holdings.

Most Famous and Beautiful Libraries in Romania

Like all countries that have amazing places of culture, Romania stands out with buildings such as the Gheorghe Asachi University Library in Iasi, voted as the second most beautiful library in the world in the year of 2015. This library was founded in 1860, Alexandru Ioan Cuza coming with the initiative, is designed by the French architect Louis Blanc. It was the first high educational institution in Romania at that time of the century. Nowadays, the building reached over one million documents. The library did not lose its magnificence even after the bombardment from 1944 or the earthquakes from 1977 and 1990. The period can be read on the architecture of the exterior, yet the interior - the harmonious blend between the Classicism that reminds of Rome and Ancient Greece, but also styles such as Post Baroque and Rococo. All these elements make you feel the past rolling down to your feet.

Another example of famous libraries in Romania is represented by the Library of the Faculty of Letters from the capital city, Romania. The history of this library is amazing, having one of the most beautiful lecture rooms from the country. The history starts at the end of the nineteen century when in 1892, in this faculty taking birth the first specific library. Famous Romanian writers and critics made donations from their libraries, all very important through their value. Nowadays, the building has over two million volumes and 26.000 documents that everyone can use. The building was entrusted to the architect Paul Gottereau and was done in 1893, two years being brought new elements. In 1911, the library was having an amphitheater with over five hundred seats and four lecture rooms. Starting from 1963, the Central University Library will become a cultural center for all the Romanians, either in the country or abroad. Step by step it becomes the most complex library from Romania. Unfortunately, in December 1989, when the Revolution took place, the library was destroyed. The devastating fire led to the disappearance of over 500.000 books and almost 3700 important manuscripts. Two years later, under the aegis of UNESCO, the director asks the organizations and politic institutions to participate in the reconstruction and modernization of the library. In only a few years, through donations, a big part of the lost books has been gathered, being offered over 100.000 books from different people and institutions, and over 800.000 books from abroad.

Both buildings are made in Second Empire style French electicism, such as many other constructions, making Bucharest to be called the ''Little Paris''. They are based on the French Neoclassicism, with Gotic and Renaissance elements, using modern materials such as glass and iron. For the University of Letters, the architect Paul Gottereau used the Beaux-Art Architecture, which is defined by elements such as sculptural decorations, mixed with modern elements. For example, the building has arched windows and doors, symmetry, sculptures, murals and mosaics. Also, now it is introduced the hierarchy of spaces, the flat roofs, classical details (pilasters, balustrades, acroteria, cartouches) and a subtle touch of polychromy.

At the very beginning, libraries were used for keeping important documents safe. As years passed by, they became public spaces, to raise the usefulness of reading into the community. But how do they change our relationship with the events that happened in the past? How does space fit within the category of books that are present in the building? At the other end of the spectrum, nowadays' libraries are based more on the design and less attention is paid on how the relationship between the archives and space works together. The results of a survey from 2013 say that the libraries should be always open, with a welcoming staff and an easy circulation. Also, these spaces should be unique places to visit, in which people can reconnect with the roots, can learn, apply, enjoy, experience and discover all the senses together. Nowadays, we tend to forget about the physical use of the libraries, due to the appearance of online resources and other methods of reading. This might represent one of the main reasons why people are moving their attention to the virtual side of gathering information.

The keyword that best describes the 21st century is ''INNOVATION''. Technology is being developed and introduced in all life's situations, including libraries. They are no longer used for keeping the documents safe, but rather to increase the communication and bond within the community, helped by the presence of the books, that became gateways to achieving goals and find our proper information. Hence, future libraries will focus on the community spaces, with different media areas, including 3D printers. The majority of the books will be digital, E-books being introduced, original documents being given away. Nowadays, a lot of libraries do include conference rooms, classrooms, all having digital systems. They are not only libraries anymore, the majority becoming meeting spaces for people as artists, entrepreneurs, the community being gathered by the inclusive architecture and design, but also by the digital touches. They will lead to a new way of looking at a traditional library, being called a ''HYBRID'' space. To see how a library will develop we will have to follow the transition of technology that is present in these spaces. Talking about digital development, why not include mixed realities and keep and use at the same time the books as we used to do?

Design Proposal

The future aim of the design is going to enhance all the senses to create another atmosphere, talking about reading and spending time into libraries, getting the observation to another level of understanding and experiencing. Due to the development of technology into these spaces as well, there is no longer any connection between the topics of the books and the interior. The design does not match the substance of the archives. This is why the project's purpose is to associate each topic to a specific room, so the reader can feel the atmosphere of the book while reading it. For example, helped by the materials, colors and mirroring effects, space can challenge all our senses. For the Science Fiction section, the color scheme will be based on blue and grey, the floor and ceiling using a mirror finish to create another level of depth. Also, the objects present on the floor will be replicated at the same scale, but with different heights on the ceiling, to create the impression of the dual identity of the room.

Using mixed realities, people can understand the space in a different way, having at the same time a physical illustration ok the book they are reading. (talking about the interior spaces described in the documents). The public can also get a feeling of the future through virtual and augmented reality, all senses being involved, a new experience is created. The aim is to mix up the realities and the actual library so that the library will not take over the real books. But how can the community benefit from these mixed realities? Helped by technology, books can be brought to life, getting a physical representation of the action and space described in the book.

As a conclusion, the virtual and real worlds will co-exist in the same building, suitable for all different ages. There is a blend of human parts, computer, and environmental input to get a result from which people can benefit. Mixed reality is said to be ''The future of humanity'', using it daily without even realizing it. Using mixed realities in an active relationship with architecture, design and the actual books can lead to a better understanding of the community and what it needs to develop at the same time with technology. All the generations can be implied in this ''experiment'', getting involved in setting up the space needed for the blend between the two worlds. Using holograms to represent the action from the books is a new approach for children to understand easier what the book is about. Old people who are not able to read anymore can use the AR glasses, at the same time while an audiobook is playing on the background, being able to see exactly what is happening. Using virtual and augmented realities (IKEA), there could be a possibility to create the interior and the shell of the building, architecture students -and not only- can play around with the furniture, colors, and materials, getting a perfect sense of dimension, using at the same time all the senses.

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