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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, promoting interaction between them. Cultural and educational facilities, such as the library proposed here, are extremely important for an informed and conscious society. According to recommendations by IFLA (International Federation of Librarian Associations) none of the current libraries in the city of Recife are able to adequately meet the needs of the community of Vila Santa Luzia. According to the on-site survey, the community already shows interest in having interactive and educational spaces, expressed in an improvised library – closed nowadays - they built on the banks of the Capibaribe River, near the proposal’s site.

According to studies contemporary society demands libraries that offer a greater interaction between interior and exterior and more relaxed reading spaces. To facilitate meeting these needs the proposal seeks to promote interaction with its surroundings. In order to do so, it applies the concepts of biorealism and biophilia due to their potential to lead to a more symbiotic relationship between the park and library land uses, which are ratified by the privileged site location adjacent to the Capibaribe River, the largest body of water in the city. In architecture, there are several possibilities when it comes to form generation. Due to the context and purpose of the artifact in question, specific biomimetics tools are sought after.


The Site

According to the Sanitation Secretariat Recife the Vila Luzia community covers a surface of 37.2 Ha and has an estimated population of 7 thousand inhabitants, with an approximately 965m long waterfront, where the mangrove vegetation is predominant. The land is occupied with mostly single and two-story dwellings, reaching up to 4 stories in some locations, which are set in a fragmented pattern, generating a landscape formed of small volumes. The plot in question is currently unused, with a public school located within a short walking distance, which would benefit from the presence of a new library.


Applying Biomimetics to form-generating

In regards to the form-generating process we borrowed from the roots of the mangrove and its organizational potential to apply the biomorphic strategy of branched blocks (Agkathidis, 2017). We adopted circular shapes as the basic branching matrix, as they also allow for better air circulation and natural lighting. Varying in radius, these circular cells were displayed so that the larger ones were located towards the center of the plot, where the main access was placed, and smaller circles were positioned towards the edges.

The roof plan would fluctuate over the circular volumes, and its form-generating process was based on the strategy of “valleys and mountains” (Agkathidis, 2017), in response to the diversity of profiles found at the site and the movement of the river. The shape unfolds in three ridges deformed from levels and transversal axes which correspond to main adjacent streets.


The program rational

The library subjects were arranged according to the same principle, with similar subjects close together, in relation to spatial conditions of tangency or intersection. Uses such as the auditorium and the café were located in the central portion of the plot, and at its West end, closer to the existing school and main access points, we placed the kid’s areas and community-oriented spaces. The studio rooms were positioned at the opposite end, close to the green areas.

According to Liang (2016) concepts of space prototypes that encouraged communication were used to define layouts: juxtaposition, terrace and threshold. The first is reflected in the cellular and fragmented nature of the project, that combines the use of large glazed areas with wooden brise-soleil. The concepts of terraces and thresholds were used in specific spaces, such as reading rooms with terraces and a threshold dividing the library zones. The kids’ reading room expanded towards an open terrace, promoting both physical and visual contact with the outside. The colors reflect the uses in the different cells, functioning as a visual, external tip, for the user, of what occurs internally.


Materiality and structure

A waffle-type structural mesh with ribs measuring 0.4 x 0.6 m of glued laminated wood was used for the roof structure. Parts of this mesh were filled with greenery to shade and protect the paths between the cells in the lower levels. The roof is supported by a 10m grid of slim concrete pillars, which, together with a secondary steel structure support the volumes below.

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

 by Ana Rolim.