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Carlana Mezzalira Pentimalli: Library in Brixen

The architectural bureau Carlana Mezzalira Pentimalli has completed the construction of a new public library in Brixen in northern Italy. The state institution, founded in 1984, has more than 36,000 books in its collection. The library is conceived as a new urban public space designed to emphasize the cultural identity of the region and unite the local community.

“It’s not just a library as a repository of books — on the contrary, it’s a project deeply connected to the context that encourages communication and the creation of new connections and intertwining of cultures, traditions, and practices and between people of all ages,” say the architects.

The complex includes a new building, as well as the restoration of existing buildings – the former financial department, the former court, and the former prison. The pedestrian zones to the north and south of the library and the garden, formerly owned by the bishop, also acquired a new look.

The space of the library, according to the requirements of the time, had to become flexible and adaptive. In this project, the architects abandoned the usual system with racks, hiding most of the technical areas around the perimeter of the building between concrete walls and wooden interior cladding. This made it possible to completely free up the central multifunctional zones. The same purpose is served by the adaptability of the layout: individual parts of the building can be used autonomously and simultaneously serve as platforms for several independent events. Nevertheless, it is carefully inscribed in the context and harmoniously interacts with the existing architecture.

Minor elevation differences between the three buildings were compensated for by the slight slopes of the premises. Each received its own functional content. The new four-story building housed the departments of periodicals, fiction, scientific works, and space for events. The building of the financial department with a facade overlooking the Piazza Duomo included an infobox, a pick-up and return area, as well as dressing rooms. The first floor of the former courthouse was occupied by office premises: automated warehouses and technical premises. It also includes a children’s area, a play area, and a music department. In the building of the former prison, there is a passing gallery.

The team paid special attention to natural light, which is necessary not only for reading but also for the maintenance and safety of books. There are no windows on the south wall, which eliminates the ingress of direct light. Instead, the entire wall was occupied by bookshelves resembling a fabulous box of books.

Here you can also see the rethinking of traditional elements in a modern way, for example, typical bay windows, characteristic of the historic center of the city. The windows of the library overlook the two main attractions of Brixen, the White Tower and the bell tower of the cathedral on one side, and the Bishop’s Palace on the other. The large windows that delineate the boundary between the interior and exterior are designed to provide diffused light, and the niches they form are ideal for reading. Finally, two large roof windows located at the top of the pitched roof allow sunlight to cross the entire height of the building up to the first floor. The internal geometry and complexity of the volume on the outside is masked by clear simple lines on the outside. The result of the project was a new public space inspired by the architectural features of Brixen, where the past and the present are inextricably linked.

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