• Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Snøhetta

Architects: Snøhetta  
Location: Alexandria,  Egypt
Project Year: 2001
Photographer: Snøhetta
Website: www.snohetta.com

Area: 80.000 m²

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt is a project with one foot in the past and the other in the future. Done in 1989, the library oozes a neo-millennial political and socio-historical connotations from a previous existing library. It was meant as a connection of the city's history, a stark modern look and technological austere that decidedly would bring the town of Alexandria a landmark with both comprehensibility and a socio cultural reference point, debatable as might be.

 Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Snøhetta

It was a pluralistic exploration of what modern day advancements in technology and the mind have been able to achieve and has no doubt been a standard all over the world of what contemporary library experiences should be. It is an astounding 80,000 sq m of books and depositories and from the silhouette far upon the water can be seen a disc, ostentatious and unpretentious, perhaps an exploration of purity and saturation of form, a deep seated knowledge of fluidity within the structure and very essence of the treatment and detailing. It does appear as a monolith, a solid block plunked onto the ground with heavy merciless greed, however the interplay of the proportions and how it relates to the human at close up tangents really does redeem it in the end...Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Snøhetta 

The design posseses an uncanny ability to creep on you, as seen from Snøhetta's landscaping and large open piazzas, and inside exists an exploration of light that manifests itself upon the walls with a sort of elegance that only a precious jewel can possess. It is within the internal spaces that one can really experience the design, with neatly towering columns and spatial integration of the various programs of the building, a quality that has come to be observed within all spaces that Snøhetta touches. The project addresses the intention and philosophy of design, the abosolute points of the paradigm shift in political involvement in development of architecture and statements of symbols vis a vis art and aesthetics within the context of a well executed project. It is a project that among others has elicited strong political and architectural tussle, but above all, has elicited intellectual debate...and that is what is important...

Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Snøhetta

From the Project Architects: Aga Khan Awards Citation

The construction of the library in itself marks the revival of the role and spirit of the ancient library of the city, a center of learning and exchange. With four main objectives, the new library is defined as the world’s window on Egypt, Egypt’s window on the world, a library for the new digital age and a center of learning and dialogue. The main concept of the project is a disc rising from the water, representing the past, tilting towards the future, with the ground level representing the present. The disc is surrounded by a granite wall carved with letters from the alphabets of the world. The project consists of the Library, a planetarium and a pedestrian bridge that cuts across the public plaza that is shared with an existing conference center. The Library comprises a main reading space, six specialist libraries, three museums, seven research centers, three permanent exhibition areas and various galleries and exhibition halls, along with the necessary facilities and services required for such a complex. 

Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Snøhetta

The architects, Snøhetta Arkitektur Landskap, have stated, ‘the project must cross barriers of politics, religion, culture and history. In order to accommodate this challenge we proposed a strong, symbolic iconography that would address basic human conditions that affect human society, such as the passage of time and our relationship to the planet we live upon. The circular form is one that is found in all cultures and is related to the heavenly objects where humans first understood the passage of time with relation to the movement of the sun, moon and stars. To express the passage of time, the building appears as a gently rotated disc passing into the earth and simultaneously above it. As it passes into the earth it enters the world we understand as the past. When it passes above the ground it enters the future. The rotation point is upon the ground at the present. The building is ultimately felt to be a frozen moment in time.’ The tilting disc is surrounded by a circular wall comprising four thousand carved granite blocks that earned the Library the title of the Fourth Pyramid. The main reading area is one open space, ‘where past, present and future symbolically connect in a singular open space’ (Snøhetta). The Planetarium is a suspended sphere next to the pedestrian bridge at the edge of the plaza forming, along with twelve olive trees, the main focus of the plaza along the Corniche.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Snøhetta

      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM
      • archiDATUM

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

  • If you want your own avatar and keep track of your discussions with the community, sign up to

SELECTED WORKS

  • The 600 square metre Villa was commissioned by a contemporary art dealer in Algeria as her new home and a place to host her private colle...

  • The Outreach Foundation Community Centre was completed in early 2015, and is one of the first new social infrastructure projects to be bu...

  • The Sapiens Building is located in a former industrial zone 500 metres from the Avenida Marginal and the Bay of Luanda. The plot contains...

CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN DIRECTORY

  • Located in the Johannesburg suburb of Craighall Park, stands the home of the young family Close. The property was purchased for the large...

  • Located at the very end of a traditional village facing the Atlas Mountains, its earth blocks create an enigmatic first impression when s...

  • Following the economic revival, an intensive urban and architectural movement began in Libya; new innovative and prestigious buildings in...