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National
Library
of the Czech
Republic

Type International competition
with Jean-Lucien Gay
Location Prague, Czech Republic
Year 2007

The future location of the National Library is on a small hill opposite the Old Town near the Letná Park, adjoining the bustling Milady Horákové street. The competition design reflects the contrast between the green of the park and the heterogeneous urban scenery, and the building’s arrangement and shape bring the two distinct areas together.

A horizontal structural element appears to float above the landscape, while a second, vertical one thrusts up through it. These two interlocking volumes are a spatial manifestation of the two independent collections of the Czech National Library. While the horizontal element houses the public library, the “book tower” contains the National Archives and thus stands for the collective national memory. The slight twisting of the structure establishes a spatial relationship with the Old Town. The building’s sculptural form creates a landmark visible from a great distance, turning knowledge into a symbol for the entire country.

A single membrane covers both structural elements and brings them together into an organically shaped whole. It lends the structure a striking façade made up of opaque and transparent surfaces. Between the membrane and the structural elements extend hall-like rooms designed for public use. At the very top of the tower are exhibition rooms and an observation platform.

The overall shape of the building is reminiscent of an amorphous undulating landscape – its frame of reference is the Hradčany district, which rises behind the park’s treetops and features Prague’s sprawling castle. In this way the city’s old landmark, the castle, is juxtaposed with one that is new and contemporary.