Since 1919, the OBA (Amsterdam Public Library Foundation) has been a prominent place for learning and personal development. Mecanoo and OBA’s history starts with the "Design Handbook" created to redesign the growing OBA neighbourhood branches for the Modern Age. Drawn up in close consultation with OBA, the handbook guided Mecanoo’s design for the new Postjesweg library.
The Postjesweg branch will reinforce OBA’s library network in the Nieuw-West district, a sprawling, high-density suburban residential area in the west of Amsterdam. Located within short distance from two of the city’s favourite parks, Sloterpark to the west and Rembrandtpark to the east, the site is easily accessible by public transport. A narrow canal and green belt separate the site from the railway and the Postjesweg metro station.
Occupying the southwestern corner of an existing mixed-use building, the new library is organised on two levels. An engaging double-height plinth reveals a welcoming ‘urban living room’, a place where people feel at home. Given a very limited space, one of the main challenges was to optimise the layout and solve a 3D puzzle of functions, solved with the introduction of a mezzanine level. The ground floor features a long table merging with the cafe counter. This multipurpose table has been designed to be a meeting point with the idea of socializing and exchanging knowledge.
A sculptural mezzanine gives depth to the façade and visually connects the two levels. Visitors can use two access points, one facing the street and the second one, accessing the terrace and garden. Both entrances open onto a generous reading café and adjacent children’s library. A multifunctional space can supplement the main reading area or can be closed to function as a space for exhibitions, courses, and events. Clearly laid out, a staircase and elevator lead to the mezzanine which accommodates a range of spaces for reading and informal study. The zig-zagged edge of the mezzanine has been designed to increase the number of seats for the study area offering different points of view. The mezzanine is also the main element that characterizes the identity of this branch and interacts with the exterior.
From the beginning, we aspired to create a welcoming environment where people feel empowered and connected. The materials and furniture follow the OBA house style to create an easily recognisable identity for all branches. Throughout the library, bespoke benches, bookshelves, tables, and chairs cater for a variety of reading activities and events. A vibrant colour palette and wooden finishes contribute to a warm atmosphere. Acoustic panels and soft furnishings balance the collaborative areas with quieter spaces for concentration.
When designing the shelving and collection arrangement, we followed a set of principles developed together with the client: maximising the number of books, allowing space for face-out book displays and showing book covers as much as possible to attract readers. A custom-made information point at the mezzanine level will also furnish all future OBA venues. To encourage independent use, Mecanoo designed this piece with integrated functions for children and people with limited mobility.