in france, the ‘bibliothèque alexis de tocqueville’ — a library designed by OMA and barcode architects — has opened to the public. located at the intersection of caen’s urban core and an area of redevelopment, the 12,500 square meter multimedia venue forms a prominent public center for the city. the design continues OMA’s belief that a library should be ‘a collective space that is adaptable to the changing practices of gathering and processing information’.

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the library is located at the intersection of caen’s urban core and an area of redevelopment
image by philippe ruault, courtesy of OMA (main image by delfino sisto legnani and marco cappelletti © OMA)

 

 

OMA’s design — developed in collaboration with barcode architects — is defined by an opposition between mass and void, with the main library space providing unobstructed views in all directions. conceived as an ‘urban belvedere’, the scheme connects four separate libraries — human sciences, science and technology, literature, and arts — into one naturally lit reading room with a variety of work and reading areas.

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
the design is defined by an opposition between mass and void
image by philippe ruault, courtesy of OMA

 

 

this completion marks the beginning of a larger transformation within caen,’ says OMA partner, chris van duijn. ‘the library pivots from the historical center to the new urban master plan, stretching from city to sea. the cross-shaped building marks this central location between the old city and the new, and is a symbol for an institution deeply invested in the future of caen.’

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the first floor hosts a variety of work and reading spaces
image by delfino sisto legnani and marco cappelletti © OMA

 

 

the entrance on the ground floor contains a large open volume complete with a press kiosk and access to a 150-seat auditorium, an exhibition space, and a restaurant with an outdoor waterfront terrace. above, the first floor hosts a variety of work and reading spaces, with physical and digital books placed side-by-side. the digital extension of the physical collections, integrated within the bookshelves, is one of the library’s multimedia features.

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
physical and digital books are placed side-by-side
image by delfino sisto legnani and marco cappelletti © OMA

 

 

the top storey houses children’s areas, as well as offices and logistics. an archive and other special historical collections are stored in the basement, protected by a waterproof membrane that has been applied to the concrete walls. see designboom’s previous coverage of the project here.

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
a stepped area of seating is provided for visitors
image by delfino sisto legnani and marco cappelletti © OMA

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
the library provides unobstructed views in all directions
image by delfino sisto legnani and marco cappelletti © OMA

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
conceived as an ‘urban belvedere’, the scheme connects four separate libraries
image by delfino sisto legnani and marco cappelletti © OMA

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
the 12,500 square meter venue forms a prominent public center for the city
image by philippe ruault, courtesy of OMA

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
the top storey houses children’s areas
image by philippe ruault, courtesy of OMA

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
an aerial view of the site in northern france
image by philippe ruault, courtesy of OMA

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
an archive and other historical collections are stored in the basement
image by delfino sisto legnani and marco cappelletti © OMA

OMA-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-library-france-designboom-02
the library supports caen’s ambition for the neighborhood to become a new civic center
image by philippe ruault, courtesy of OMA

oma-rem-koolhaas-bibliotheque-alexis-de-tocqueville-caen-france-library-designboom
axonometric diagrams detailing the scheme’s layout
images © OMA

 

 

project info:

 

project: bibliotheque alexis de tocqueville
status: completed
client: communautéd’agglomération caen la mer
location: caen, france
site: at the tip of the peninsula in caen, quai francois mitterrand, rue dumont d’urville, rue suède et norvege
program: library, total 12,700 sqm (SHON), including 325 sqm exhibition space, 350 sqm restaurant, 250 sqm auditorium, 3,200 sqm reading spaces, 2,075 sqm offices + logistics, and 1,900 sqm storage space

 

competition
partner: rem koolhaas
project manager: barcode architects: dirk peters
associate in charge: clément blanchet
team: cristina ampatzidou, joshua boyd, nils christa, marc dahmen, guillaume durand, alice grégoire, simon de jong, anthony joyeux, noémie laviolle, clément périssé, jos reinders

 

APS & APD
partner: rem koolhaas
project manager: dirk peters (barcode architects), francisco martinez (APS & APD)
associate in charge: clément blanchet
team: marek chytil, paul cournet, lionel debs, javier guijarro, didzis jaunzems, sangwoo kim, pierre jean le maitre, filippo nanni, clement perisse, maria aller rey, mariano sagasta, giulia scotto

 

PRO & DCE
partner: rem koolhaas
associate in charge: clément blanchet
project leader: francisco martinez
team: merve anil, alicia casals, helena hiriart, phil handley, sangwoo kim, byungchan kim, pierre jean le maitre, maria aller rey, mariano sagasta, giulia scotto, sara sun

 

construction
partner: chris van duijn
contract manager: francois riollot
project leader: francisco martinez
team: maria aller rey, julien miguel, phelan heinsohn, jerome picard, jeanne le lievre

 

collaborators
architecture: barcode architects, clement blanchet architecture engineering: iosis / egis batiments
sustainability & facade: elioth
acoustics: RHDHV
scenography: ducks sceno
renderings / moving images: artefactorylab
façade: robert-jan van santen / VS-a group

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