The world-famous Stockholm Public Library, designed by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund, was built in 1928 in the Swedish capital. In 2006, the city of Stockholm announced an international architectural competition for a grand expansion of the library. My entry in the competition was titled “City of Knowledge.”
I remembered the open double-helix staircase—a brilliant work of Leonardo da Vinci—in the royal Château de Chambord at Loir-et-Cher, France, from history lessons. I decided to imagine Leonardo's staircase afresh as the establishing design element of the library extension. The two stairs at Chambord ascend three floors without ever meeting, with one staircase dedicated to the royal family and the other to the servant floors, cleverly separating the two building uses. Within my proposed City of Knowledge, the various public spaces rise around the rotunda and are reachable via a gently sloped ramp dedicated to visitors; staff areas, on the other hand, are accessible via a separate ramp. The two ramps together form the double helix, providing a separation of visitor, staff and media circulation, as it is necessary to segregate these important flows and uses. The floor levels are thus divided between visitors and staff. The public areas are free of major library functions, and the experience produced is one of being in a familiar place expressly for guests of the library.
The two ramps of the helix additionally provide sectional complexity, while forming a large central atrium that provides a continuous point of reference. A glass roof allows the atrium—a second rotunda, to complement the library's original prominent rotunda— to fill with an abundance of light. The elliptical walls that define the atrium consolidate all of the various mechanical and building systems, as well as a major structural system. The rhythmic patterns of wall openings that may appear arbitrary are, to the contrary, strategic; the walls artfully control levels of illumination, and create passages and openings while sometimes forming resting and seating areas.
Status: Competition Entry
Location: Stockholm, Sweden