OBA Mercatorplein, located in a national monument designed by Berlage in 1925-1927, has been modernised. Through this library renovation, the client’s wish of becoming an intergenerational neighbourhood-oriented meeting place in the heart of De Baarsjes district, has been fulfilled. The design takes the current condition of the building, enhances the existing qualities and marries them with careful new insertions into the fabric of the structure to create a learning environment in activity-based surroundings.
One of the original concepts of the Berlage building was to showcase the internal functions onto the street, adding an active frontage of shops onto the streetscape. The renovation brings back this notion, with the main concept of the layout dividing the programme into “shops”, aiming to showcase the building’s activities and bringing the streetscape to life. A big-book interior wall displaying the collection of the library meanders around the periphery of the building, linking a series of enclosed and open spaces including informal study areas, a multifunctional space, a reading room and a living-learning space. An inner street within the centre of the library connects the programmes at the front and back of the building, within which a multipurpose table serves as a location for dialogue, a place to meet, a social space. A place within the heart of the library where everything can happen.
As this internal wall continues to journey its way along the outside edge of the building, an atmospheric and playful children’s library is created. In this area, an artistic, colourful interpretation of a historical map of Mercator is printed on the surface of the floor, signifying the neighbourhood’s history. Circular lights hanging above the space provide an additional playful feature to the interior and soft seating elements offer comfortable lounging for children and parents.
Connection to the exterior
Facing the front of the library, two other “shops” in the form of a multifunctional maker’s space and reading café are positioned. Situated along the glazed façade of the building, they exhibit the function of the library to the outside world and make a connection with the street running along the length of the building, relating to the shopfronts of the Berlage plan.
All spaces have been designed to maximise flexibility and make the building as versatile as possible in order to enhance the connection with the neighbourhood and Mercatorplein. For instance the future opportunity for sliding doors to be installed onto the reading café can allow for afterhours use, opening up this area onto the street, for use by neighbours and companies in the neighbourhood in isolation from the rest of the library.
The design seeks to maximise natural light and make this beneficial for all internal spaces. It achieves this through highlighting existing roof lights and bringing them back to life to perform a function that was originally intended for them. The ceiling is also elevated to make the space feel more generous. The materiality and identity of the internal spaces focuses on creating a library that is flexible, open, intimate and welcoming. Natural materials such as soft wood used for the internal wall to house the collection of the library, compliment the light stone of the original wall.