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Changing times for libraries

A new building for book-lovers

München, 07/17/2014

Libraries have been transformed in recent years. Planning for LMU’s new Philologicum, construction of which is scheduled to start next year, reflects this sea change. – The new building located at Ludwigstrasse 25 will be a modern specialist library, designed to facilitate concentration and promote dialog.

Source: cukrowicz nachbaur architekten

Libraries, as storehouses of accumulated knowledge, have a long and venerable history – and like the media they are designed to shelter, their architecture has been subject to constant change. In the throes of our ongoing digital revolution, which promises to make the utilization of media completely independent of one’s physical location, academic libraries are again becoming refuges for undisturbed study and fruitful discussion. Numbers of reading-room users are rising – not just at LMU, but at university libraries around the globe.

The rediscovery of the library
“This new-found appeal of libraries, in the midst of the current transition from analog to digital media, is at first sight paradoxical,” says Dr. Klaus-Rainer Brintzinger, Director of Munich University Library. “On the other hand, it is a perfectly understandable development. In the radical realignment in which we now find ourselves, the demands made upon libraries have not diminished, they have simply changed. Libraries have acquired a new status, as places and as spaces. Students have rediscovered an institution where, in the company of others, they can learn, work and prepare themselves for upcoming tests in a quiet and pleasantly austere setting. “In this sense, the library is rather like a monastic space that one can enter and leave at will, a place of inspiration and concentration,” Brintzinger remarks.

Libraries devoted to the Humanities, in particular, have taken on renewed significance over the past several years. This is one reason why LMU has repeatedly pointed to the need for a new library for students and researchers in the fields of languages and literature. Then, in 2013 Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer gave the go-ahead for the Philologicum. The new library is designed to accommodate up to 700 readers and will house a collection comprising 420,000 media. Construction gets underway in the autumn of 2015 on the site of the present Gärtner Building at Ludwigstrasse 25.

Meeting three major design criteria
Indeed the Gärtner Building itself will accommodate the library, and architects were therefore invited to submit project designs for restructuring it for this purpose. Three elements of the winning design submitted by the Bregenz-based partnership Fink Thurnher and Cukrowicz Nachbaur were instrumental in convincing the jury, as Dr. Brintzinger explains. “First of all, they produced a design that fulfilled all the functional requirements of a modern library in a particularly convincing fashion – while at the same time respecting the historicity of the Gärtner Building and carefully expanding on it in the interior,” he says. In addition, the architects decided to restore the original ceiling height of five-and-half meters, which determines the proportions of the facade – and have done so in the central section of the building by inserting new galleries, thus making good use of the extra space.

This idea also has another advantage: It partitions the space in such a way that distinctly set-off zones are formed, which are ideal for individual learning and study, working together in groups, or relaxation and informal conversations. Thanks to the parallel arrangement of the main section of each storey and the gallery level, acoustically isolated spaces are created which allow for both interaction and seclusion. The third factor that persuaded the jury to select this design was the fact that these zones can easily be adapted for other purposes and thus provide the flexibility needed to respond to future needs. “We are now in the middle of the digital revolution. Nobody is in a position to predict how the library will be used in 10 – or 30 – years’ time,” says Brintzinger, who was himself a member of the jury that evaluated the architects’ plans. This underlines the importance of being able to reallocate space at some later date, to reconfigure working areas as required, for instance.

A focus and a beacon for the Humanities
LMU President Professor Bernd Huber is convinced that the design “satisfies the functional demands that a library must fulfil in the 21st century and conforms to the highest academic standards. The Philologicum will therefore markedly improve working conditions for students and academic researchers in our Humanities division.”

The structure that now occupies the site at Ludwigstrasse 25 was built by Friedrich von Gärtner in the years 1833-1835, during the reign of King Ludwig I. It currently houses several specialist libraries, offices and classrooms belonging to the Faculty of Languages and Literatures, as well as the stage used by the Department of Theater Studies. Construction of the new library will involve the complete stripping of the interior, the section of the western façade erected in the 1960s and the roof of the present structure. The historical facades will be retained and restored in accordance with conservation guidelines. As the largest specialized library at LMU the new Philologicum will house the collections now held by the libraries in the Departments of Classical Philology, German Studies, Romance Languages, and Slavic Studies, among others – as well as the philology-related holdings in Central Textbook Collection. Stripping of the interior is scheduled to begin in October 2015, and the new building should be completed in 2018. The total cost is estimated at 33 million euros.