Deichman Stovner Library

12 January 2018

The ultimate social library for all generations. The idea behind the brand-new Deichman Stovner library in Oslo (Norway) strays far away from the traditional approach of dividing a library into sections based on age for its visitors. Instead, this library is based in a shopping mall and functions as a multipurpose space for all ages with an interior extraordinaire that reflects the rural roots of the library’s environment: the Oslo city woods.

Deichman Stovner Library is a branch of Oslo Public Libraries (Deichmanske Bibliotek). The library spans 1,100 m2 in Stovner Center, which is found on the fringe of the city of Oslo, where forest meets civilization. The shopping center has a strong social function in the neighborhood; it’s one of the few places in the area where locals can go to do their daily grocery or other shopping, as well as meet & greet for coffee or lunch. The new library provides a newfound dimension for meeting, learning and entertainment under the Stover Senter Roof.

Social flexibility

International creative guide and architect Aat Vos developed the concept and design of Stovner library, in co-creation with the stage builders of Artisan Tech AS (Oslo). The teams successfully worked together on a previous much talked about library: youth library Deichman Biblo Tøyen in Oslo. Aat Vos explains: “Research by Deichman has shown that about 90% of all users visit this library to engage with others. We noticed certain peak hours with different patrons. After school the space was flooded with children, whereas towards the evening adults dominated. However, the morning hours belonged to (grand)parents and their (grand)children. Dividing the library into sections for kids and adults would have had one group spilling into the section of the other during various times of the day.”

These facts inspired Vos to base the interior’s theme on a park: a relevant third place – with an ageless and non-discriminative feel for all – the freedom to relax, play, read or have a family barbecue. With its many green and wooden elements, the positive vibes of a park are immediately noticeable upon entering Deichman Stovner library. Inviting character aside, its social flexibility is translated into a versatile and customizable interior. For instance, furniture on wheels encourages users to rearrange it over and over again in any desired constellation serving many different needs.

A sustainable public space

Knut Skansen, Library Director of Oslo Public Library adds: “The fallacy is believing that the development of libraries is about media formats. However, library development is actually about creating a sustainable public space for citizens’ interactions with each other, with content and with tools, thereby helping them become active participants in their communities. This requires a new type of public space that is attractive and non-institutional- somewhere between personalized and public. These spaces offer citizens the chance to take on a new and more important role as volunteers and resources for their communities and for each other. The new Deichman Stovner library is the embodiment of our overall vision. We aim at a society where all citizens feel at home, find affiliation, feel a positive commitment to their communities and their own lives – and have unlimited access to books.”

The green indoors

With the calming color green and tons of recycled* wooden elements, the park inspiration is undeniable in Oslo’s new urban living room. It contains numerous eye-catching props such as giant wooden leaves found sprouting up all over the place, a greenhouse structure, but also bird nests big enough for people to cuddle up in, and elm tree trunks (recycled from Tøyen Park) surrounded by benches to sit on. The main area is intentionally left open to be bustling with people interacting, like an open barn area representing the local area, once the home to farmstead’s wheat fields and their families. The bookshelves are no less than remarkable with a triple medley of materials: a combination of concrete, wooden planks in their original shape (with only the bark stripped away), and laser cut metal brackets, a homage to Victorian engineering. The maker space was given an industrial look and feel with elements like a retractable wall and cast-iron window frames, once housed in a Norwegian industrial factory circa late 1800s.

*Natural and recycled materials native to Norway. From Trondheim there are over 400m2 of reclaimed timber used for the amphitheater and stage areas and 60m of original beams salvaged from a barn. Elements collected from a local farm and make up the bench on the stage, along with the doors and windows.

Project credits

Deichman Stovner Library is a co-creation of Aat Vos (design concept, strategy, creative direction – aatvos.com) and Artisan Tech – Damian Williams & team – (production & development), in collaboration with Veideke Entreprenør AS (Distrikt Oslo, main contractor – veideke.no/oslo), and Lysteknikk El. Entreprenør AS (electrician – lysteknikk.no).

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