The library in Vennesla, north of Kristiansand in Norway, comprises a library, a café, meeting places and administrative areas and links an existing community house and learning center together. Helen & Hard Architects has supported the idea of an inviting public space. All main public functions have been gathered into one generous space allowing the structure combined with furniture and multiple spatial interfaces to be visible in the interior and from the exterior. The result is a sophisticated elegance to a public facility in Norway.
An integrated passage brings the city life into and through the building. Furthermore, the new building is open and easily accessible from the main city square, knitting together the existing urban fabric. This was achieved by a large glass facade and urban loggia providing a protected outdoor seating area.
The expressive ribs combine structure, technical infrastructure, and functionality into one architectonic element that creates a dynamic aesthetic identity for the project to meet the client’s original intent to mark the city’s cultural center.
The whole library consists of 27 ribs made of prefabricated glue-laminated timber elements and CNC cut plywood boards. These ribs inform the geometry of the roof, as well as the undulating orientation of the generous open space, with personal study zones nestled along the perimeter. The offset construction of the ribs allows the curves to function as spatial interfaces with inset lighting elements to provide a soft glow to the interiors and acoustic absorbents which contain the air conditioning ducts.
Related: Exporting Norwegian Architecture
Adapting two adjacent buildings
“In this project, we developed a rib concept to create useable hybrid structures that combine a timber construction with all technical devices and the interior,” explains the architects.
The gradually shifting shapes of the ribs are generated through adapting to the two adjacent buildings and also through spatial quality and functional demands for the different compartments of the library. Each end façade has been shaped according to the specific requirements of the site. At the main entrance, the rib forms the loggia which spans the width of the entire square.
Sophisticated Elegance to a Public Facility in Norway
The rib spans the entire width of the building and then slowly condense to create more intimate rooms. While the building’s roof is formed by the geometry of the curves, the massing along traces the natural lines of the site and responds to the main street by folding down towards it.
Typical of Helen & Hard’s work, a main intention has also been to reduce the energy need for all three buildings through the infill concept and the use of high standard energy saving solutions in all new parts. The library is a “low-energy” building, defined as class “A” in the Norwegian energy-use definition system.
The library opened in 2012.
About Helen & Hard
Helen & Hard was founded in 1996 in Stavanger on the west coast of Norway by Norwegian architect Siv Helene Stangeland and Austrian architect Reinhard Kropf. Today, the company has a youthful staff of 26 people drawn from 10 countries, with offices both in Stavanger and Oslo.
The last 10 years Helen & Hard has specialized in using timber as construction material and has developed a close collaboration with the ingenieur Hermann Blumer in Creation Holz. Inventing building systems in timber together with site specific spatial conceptions, which mutually inform each other has resulted in novel spatial designs such as, the Pulpit Rock Mountain Lodge, the Navet Museum and the Vennesla Library.
Sophisticated Elegance to a Public Facility in Norway, edited by Tor Kjoberg based on text description provided by the architects