french architectural agency d’houndt+bajart unveils their latest work – the transformation of dunkirk‘s former fine arts museum into a media library called ‘LA BIB’. commissioned by the city, the ambitious project intends to create a cultural hub by providing a new program for the building, which includes a café, library, auditorium and an exhibition hall.
all images © maxime delvaux
the white, monumental exterior of the former museum has been retained more or less as existing with just a few additions and insertions to maximise the building’s potential. by demolishing the numerous annexes that had been constructed over time around the original structure, d’houndt+bajart has effectively freed up the main volume, resulting in a simple architectural language. the design team also introduced large openings to the elevations, allowing natural light to flood into the interior spaces, affording a more pleasant indoor environment.
the guiding concept behind the design was to form a library that does not look like a library but instead provides an accessible place to all. to achieve this more approachable atmosphere, entry is gained into the building through the café – a casual environment. upon entering, a large, bright and open space greets visitors. here, huge green-colored steps that reach the upper level invite people to sit down and relax on a rolling ‘sensory landscape’.
the indoor environment has been envisioned as one continuous and consistent space with many destinations planned within that are waiting to be discovered. the design implements a diverse layout that caters for every visitors’ requirements. from quiet alcoves to read or study, to more sociable spaces for chatting with friends, LA BIB aims to provide an ambiance for each and every of these situations.
for the project, d’houndt+bajart has carefully blended the existing architecture with the new. for example, the shelving work bears the outdoor staircase’s screen wall pattern. a way to mix the past and the present while remaining faithful to the spirit of the original building. to form the rest of the interior, they employed specific craftsmanship to plaster the ceilings with sensuous curves, create quality wooden shelves and bookcases, and padded alcoves that are built into the walls and part of the auditorium.