Powerhouse Company, Atelier Oslo and Lundhagen selected for renovation of the Central Library in Rotterdam

The team from Powerhouse Company, Atelier Oslo and Lundhagem has made the winning sketch design for the Central Library, which is to be renovated in Rotterdam. The landscape design is by Delva Landscape Architecture | urbanism. The judging panel was unanimous in the selection of the winning team.

Rotterdam Municipality announced the winning team today. The consortium, led by Powerhouse Company and two Norwegian architectural firms, will now develop the sketch design for the renovation of the distinctive building into a preliminary and then final design. This team was chosen by the judging panel from among five candidates.

The current Central Library building was opened in 1983 and was designed by Jaap Bakema and Hans Boot from the architectural firm Van den Broek en Bakema. After almost 40 years, the building, which is one of the iconic buildings in Rotterdam, is being renovated and will therefore have to undergo a large-scale renovation.

Opening the interior
The building is under technical renewal and sustainability; thereby, the team strives for circular solutions. At the same time, the design aims to create an attractive ‘living room for the city’: “a new form of public space”, as Nils Ole Brandtzaeg from Atelier Oslo said.

“The use of the library has changed drastically in recent years. It has inspired us to transform the existing collection and storage spaces into an open and welcoming environment where people can work and meet, ”Brandtzaeg explains.

The radical renovation of the interior is done by opening spaces everywhere. For example, the current storage areas will be transformed into a transparent atrium containing a wealth of inviting places. The renovation retains the original ideas behind the library building.

Original intentions
The design team calls the task “an excellent opportunity to restore the original, eccentric design”, or rather: to realize the original intentions. At that time, the quality of the building did not come into its own due to budgetary constraints.

Cuts in execution have particularly affected the facade and the building’s transparency, explains the current design team. The new design is based on a better glass application, to create a fluid and spatial experience, with uninterrupted outward views.

A system of escalators runs throughout the height of the building, but the lower intersecting escalators are placed differently in design than in the intended rhythm. The new design addresses this; in addition, the connection is improved by adding large wooden grandstand stairs between the floors.

The yellow steel pipes that run along the facade on the outside of the building and regularly give the building comparisons with the Center Pompidou in Paris will continue to be used in a more sustainable way. They are used as multifunctional elements and extend to the ground. “It makes them part of the street scene, tangible and accessible and even more so part of the building’s identity,” the architects explain.

At the back of the library, a glass room with wooden construction replaces a storage room. The new extension offers extra floor space, light and transparency. Finished in blue, just like the storage space it replaces, the new volume retains the color signature – white, yellow and blue.

It is our experience that the building’s existing main entrance is far from the heart of the library. Therefore, the new design adds entrances on all sides, centrally located in each facade. They increase accessibility on the ground floor and fit well into the environment, thus contributing to the hunt for a ‘city living room’.

Sequence of spaces
The various interventions to transform and expand the building provide a range of spaces that can accommodate a lively and flexible program. The new layout makes the program’s diversity easy to see: “from cooking workshops to a climbing wall in the children’s department,” says the design team.

The order of rooms ends on the seventh floor with a green and quiet reading room on one side and a terrace with a magnificent view of the city on the other. This area is made accessible to visitors by removing the technical areas here. The library will also have a terrace on the ground floor, to which the corner of the square will be adapted.

In June 2021, the municipality of Rotterdam announces that it will look for a design team for the renovation of the Central Library. The municipality then received 22 (national and international) applications, from which an assessment committee selected five design teams. The five designs were assessed on building, interior design, outdoor space and action plan for the further design process.

The final choice fell on the sketch design of the team with Powerhouse Company, Atelier Oslo and Lundhagem, because according to the committee it best strikes the balance between preserving the iconic value and transforming it into an inviting library now and in the future. The two Norwegian offices also designed the Deichman Library in Oslo, completed in 2020 and named the world’s best public library in 2021.

In addition to the architectural firms Powerhouse Company, Atelier Oslo and Lundhagem, the winning team consists of DELVA (landscape design), Buro Happold (installation consultancy and construction) and ISIS Bouwadvies (cost management).

The development of the sketch design for a preliminary project is carried out by the architect team in close collaboration with the library, the municipality and other stakeholders. “The draft outdoor space still requires the necessary attention,” says Rotterdam municipality. “This will be discussed with local residents during the process, among other things.”

In the spring, the five teams’ sketch designs were exhibited online and in the hall at the Central Library. Rotterdammer’s vision of the sketch designers was examined using a questionnaire. The approximately 4,500 responses have been taken into account by the assessment committee in its deliberations.

In mid-2023, the City Council will decide on the preliminary design. Construction is expected to begin in late 2025 and be completed by the end of 2028. It is the year in which the building’s 45th anniversary is also celebrated.

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