Amsterdam Bijlmer LibraryLibrary Design 30 Jan 2017
The Bijlmer public library is one of many chapters of the Public Libraries of Amsterdam. This organization has introduced a new approach that will allow a fresh breeze to rustle through its many branches; each library is set to become a more relevant place on a neighborhood scale.
Stocking up the shelves with something new
Openbare Bibliotheken Amsterdam (OBA, Public Libraries of Amsterdam) wanted to revive multiple library branches by letting each collaborate with at least one second organization. The former library in Bijlmer (OBA Bijlmerplein) was made up of one main ingredient: shelving. With a purely institutional look, it lacked general appeal and had only a slight connection to the local neighborhood. The library’s interior had to be rethought and brightened up with a cool concept, but that wouldn’t be enough. The library had been neglected for a while and wasn’t even top-of-mind for the local people because it lacked character. The library’s housemate, a second organization, would help it stand out.
Social cement and room for innovation are created through people coming together in places like OBA Bijlmerplein.
The OBA decided to cooperate with the institution that the Bijlmer library shares a roof with, Imagine IC. This institution focuses on capturing heritage; bringing the past to life in modern ways, such as through digital storytelling, galleries and image archives. Imagine IC is a museum of the history and the culture of Bijlmer, it infused the library with a sense of pride in its heritage. This pride translated to the local inhabitants, the cooperation of these two institutions created a sense of belonging for both the institution and the visitors. This public space now confidently projected local identity on a neighborhood scale.
Bringing the branch back to life
As the two organizations were successfully cooperating and transferring knowledge to one another while making library visitors curious, it was time to focus on the library’s interior design. As said, the library had intimidating shelving all around, which we turned into book walls that stretched through the library and were intentionally broken up, either with seating or gathering areas, so as not to be overwhelming to the eye. Additionally, many bookshelves were now mobile as they had wheels; the environment could be shifted around as needed.
With its high entryway and natural lighting, the former office building has been transformed into a living space with a refreshing design and an inviting character. Upon entering, visitors will immediately notice the wide 4.5-meter high staircase. This massive staircase serves as the indispensable link between the ground floor and the first floor, the two layers that form the new library. The multifunctional staircase also functions as a podium for presentations, thanks to the large pillows that can be sat upon. The library staircase strongly refers to the outdoor streetside staircase that connects the two levels of the Bijlmerplein; the interior becomes part of the urban space.
We also included study areas, lockers, and a kid’s corner, among other facilities. The use of round, organic shapes balanced out the rectangular shelves and books, giving the library a more welcoming touch. This library branch was now alive and well, drawing energy from its patrons. Thanks to having reaffirmed its origin and its identity, this branch was finally able to grow back its roots.
Project credits OBA Bijlmerplein
Client: Openbare Bibliotheken Amsterdam (OBA, Public Libraries of Amsterdam)
OBA Bijlmerplein is a co-creation of Aat Vos (design concept, strategy, art direction) and Mars Interieurarchitecten (design, engineering).