stewart hollenstein presents tiered proposal for varna library competition
all images courtesy of stewart hollenstein




sydney-based architecture studio stewart hollenstein has unveiled the design it submitted as part of the international varna library competition. the scheme was awarded an honorable mention as part of the contest. varna is a major tourist destination located on the edge of the black sea, and is often referred to as the summer capital of bulgaria. the competition site is located adjacent to the city’s municipal hall and the archaeological museum park. the current library collection is spread across six different buildings throughout the city. consequently, the competition sought to bring the facilities under one roof.


gardens play such a strong role in storytelling, so here in varna, a city of gardens, we saw a great opportunity to combine the library and garden,’ explains matthias hollenstein, director at stewart hollenstein. ‘the character of each level is defined by its perimeter garden, which in turn defines the library’s relationship with the city beyond’.

stewart hollenstein varna library competition bulgaria designboom
a central void pierces through each terrace




the 17,000 square meter scheme picks up on the rich history of varna as a city of generous public gardens, merging this with the library program. a series of stacked landscapes, each with their own distinct character, provide a multitude of indoor and outdoor spaces for library and civic activity. the project is envisioned as the heart of cultural life in the city.


the proposed library claims the site for the enjoyment of the public as an extended home for the city’s people. a clear distinction between each floor of the building creates a sense of legibility for users, and allows each floor to develop its own character. a central void pierces through each terrace, bringing light and views into the heart of the plan, while also acting to passively ventilate the building. the playful, overlapping voids create a distinct place to study, read and observe daily life.

stewart hollenstein varna library competition bulgaria designboom
the design includes a children’s floor with an undulating bookscape




the program includes: a children’s floor with an undulating bookscape and adventure garden, a flexible youth zone with hammocks, mobile shelving and pot plants, a quiet study floor with native garden, and a roof top events terrace with views to the city and black sea beyond. the ground floor functions as an event hub, connecting the library with the activity of the street and adjacent town hall, and bringing the landscape inside. the ground plane is designed as an inviting and open space with every side of the building activated with public programs. these include exhibitions, conferences, public program rooms, a café, and a generous public foyer.


libraries need a legibility that allow the public to use them intuitively,’ adds felicity stewart, director at stewart hollenstein. ‘people must feel at ease with a place like their own city library, built for them to relax, learn and expand their story.’