National Library of the Czech Republic

The New National Library of the Czech Republic embodies the conjunction of four architectonic masses: an Archive Wall, a Library Box, a Reading Bar and a Processing Foundation. Separately these elements represent unique programmatic volumes but collectively they strike an urban gesture that is both opaque and permeable. Diagrammatically the relationship between the Wall, Box, Bar and Foundation represents the flow of acquisition, cataloging, storage, reading and public interaction. As a result, the circulation of both books and of people (both public and private) constitutes a celebrated sequence of ascension within the library and the archive.

The Reading Bar is situated above the tree line, affording views across the immediate surrounds, towards Prague’s centre to the south and Prague Castle to the west. The existing diagonal link to the park from Milady Horakove is reintroduced via a landscape of biopavers of varying permeability that create a smooth but varied transition from organic to mineral surfaces. Set within a new grove of densely planted trees, this entry from the north creates a new green space and enables the entire project to sit within a park setting. The hardscape plaza between the public entry and east edge of the site mirrors the plan of the Reading Bar and provides a generous public forecourt to the Library Box and a dramatic threshold to the park.

Connected to the Reading Bar is the Archive Wall, which figures prominently within the landscape of the Plain Letenská Plán. The monolithic elevation of the Wall is interrupted twice by large reading areas dedicated to the Parlimentary Library and the to the Archive. The figured and patterned skin of the Archive Wall celebrates the opaque and protective characteristics of the archive while referencing the recursive nature of collection and storage. Significant to both the Bar and the Wall is the cantilever which joins them. This eccentric gesture speaks to rigid logistics of archival storage relative to the free intellectual interpretation of the archive’s contents by researchers and the public alike.