Monday, January 3, 2011

New Czech National Library in Prague | OCEAN NORTH and Scheffler + Partner

Lípa, the lime tree or linde (tilia), is the national tree of the Czech Republic. It is a feminine symbol of life that reflects the myth of queen Libuše as the female founder of the Czeque nation.
Likewise, literature constitutes the collective memory of the Czech nation and vital part of its cultural progression. Together they are intertwined in perpetual growth and evolution. In this respect the national tree provides a befitting and exciting image, organisation and structure for the aspiration of this scheme to both embody and house this cultural dynamic.
The proposal deploys the evocative image of the lime tree in a threefold manner:
- to provide a sensous image of cultural and literary evolution, growth and proliferation engendered by Czech literary tradition and production;
- to embrace the breathtaking landscape of Prague and the Moldau valley so as to extend and interweave it smoothly into the built fabric of the city;
- to evolve a unique tectonic that mediates between urban fabric and living nature. In doing so, the design takes inspiration from the late gothic Vladislav Hall (1493-1502) with its unique and immaculate starshape rip vault by Benedikt Ried, which fuses the tectonic and the organic in a spectacular and stately manner.
The building is organised in three distinct, but interconnected volumes that together form a very large tree-like form. The central volume constitutes the trunk, which organises a smooth connection between Milady Horákové Avenue and Letenské park. The cantilevering volumes provide the treetop that enable the unique spatial experience of inhabiting a vast tree space.

The cantilevering volumes are supported by the volume that contains the national archive. The library and office volumes are cantilevered from it, supported by five large frames that are arranged in a fan-shape. The unique branching structure that envelopes and supports the cantilevering volumes reinforces the image of the vast tree-space of the library. The form-generation of the branching structure evolved from a digital analysis of the force flow that resulted from the load-case of cantilevering the two volumes. The load vectors are articulated as a branching system, which gradually becomes thinner towards the edges of the cantilevers. The self-similar character of the branching system enables a simultaneously differentiated yet rationalised tectonic that deploys a range of profile families for the structure of the scheme.


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