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(Author: Larissa Falavigna / Advisor: Ana Rolim)

Project presented in the Archdesign '19 / VI, Athens - International Architectural Design Conference.

The Library as a Third Place

According to Oldenburg (1999) “third places” connect people and promote their interaction. Cultural and educational facilities, such as the library proposed here, are extremely important for an informed and conscious society. Taking into consideration the recommendations by the International Federation of Librarian Associations (IFLA) none of the current libraries in the city of Recife, Brazil, are able to adequately meet the needs of the community of Vila Santa Luzia, an informal housing settlement that has undergone an urbanization process, where an improvised library (now inactive), was found.

If contemporary libraries should offer greater interaction between interior and exterior and more relaxed reading spaces, the proposal is anchored in interacting with its surroundings. By applying the concepts of biorealism and biophilia, it aims towards converting a symbiotic relationship between building and site, and the park and library typologies, ratified by the privileged location adjacent to the Capibaribe River, the city's largest body of water. As a response to local geography, specific biomorphic form-generating strategies are sought after.

The Site

With an estimated population of 7K inhabitants, the 92-acre Santa Luzia community displays a 3,200 ft long waterfront, predominantly marked with mangrove vegetation. It is occupied with single and two-story dwellings that reach up to 4 stories in some locations, spread out in a fragmented pattern of small-size built volumes. The project's plot is currently unused, adjacent to a public school, which would benefit from the new library.


Applying Biomorphic Strategies

Based on local mangrove's roots and their organizational structure, the main biomorphic strategy was "branched blocks" (Agkathidis, 2017). As circular shapes allow for better air circulation and natural lighting, they were used as the basic geometric matrix. Larger circles were located towards the center, where the main access was placed, and smaller ones were positioned towards the edges of the plot.

Fluctuating over the circular volumes, the roof's profile was based on the biomorphic strategy of “valleys and mountains” (Agkathidis, 2017). It responded to the diversity of building massing and river section profiles, unfolding in three ridges that represent both the section peaks (longitudinally) and the main adjacent streets's axes (transversally).


The Program

According to spatial conditions of tangency or intersection, similar library subjects were placed close together. While more public components, such as the auditorium and the café, were centrally located, kid’s areas and community-oriented spaces were placed closer to the existing school and main access (West end). Studio rooms were positioned at the opposite end, close to the outdoor green areas.

Liang's (2016) concepts of space prototypes to encourage communication (juxtaposition, terrace and threshold) were crucial in defining floor plan layouts. The concept of juxtaposition is present in the cellular and fragmented configuration that combines the use of large glazing areas and brise-soleil. The concepts of terraces and thresholds were used in specific spaces, such as reading rooms and to mark the library zones. The kids’ reading room expanded towards an open terrace, promoting both physical and visual contact with the outside.


Structural System

A ribbed waffle-type structural mesh of cross-laminated timber was used for the roof structure, partially in-filled with greenery to provide shading and cover walkways between spaces. The main structural grid contained slim concrete columns, which, together with a secondary steel structure helped support the circular volumes.

This projected was presented in the Archdesign '19 / VI, Athens - International Architectural Design Conference, and has been published in the conference proceedings.

View from foot bridge over the Capibaribe River facing the building

Aerial view highlighting a floating soft-mesh roof structure with circular cells below

Ground floor plan

Model: The proposed volume establishes a positive dialogue with fragmented building massing in the site

Wireframe and stereotomic models of site analysis and proposed volume

Branched block strategy applied in the design

The form-generating process of valleys and mountain applied in the design of the main roof

Longitudinal section

The articulation of the program in relation to library subjects and uses of the spaces

1st Floor Plan

Building elevation facing the river


View of entrance

Ground floor public spaces

Performance diagrams

Perspective section of kids' area

Concepts of space prototypes that encouraged communication: juxtaposition, terrace and threshold

Aerial view of building with public spaces, including fishing piers to help sustain the local community

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