We desired the Marsan Public Library with a treasure inside, a covered “cultural square”, open to the view of the public. Also as a shining lantern, bringing the square to life and turning it into a living space. A building that engages hybrid means, with its wider environment and with its users of all ages.
The Media Library stands in the ancient drill yard of the Bosquet barracks in Mont-de-Marsan, France. It’s an austere quadrangle of the former barracks that became a public square, an everyday meeting place. As this “urban function” sounded important to us, we preserved it by designing the building as a simple covered “cultural square”: an open public covered space, like the earliest market places.
To avoid walls and get a really “open” place, we designed this curved and totally glazed central patio. Its contoured light well is highly versatile for readers, who can easily navigate the interior spaces of the library.
The various functions are organized naturally on the open floor space. It maintains visual continuity and evenly diffuses daylight.
The combination of curves and glass, enhanced by a delicate inclination of the façade, provides a relaxed and contemplative atmosphere. This patio was also imagined as an outside reading room. The relationship between architecture, furniture design and fittings is with the services given high priority.
By making the facades transparent, the project meets the full technical challenges with, for example, small sections in a big span. Instead of an overbearing design language, the building engages with its wider environment and with its users of all ages by hybrid means.
There is a clean envelope of geometric lines, while the classical architectural layout is in the interior offset as a system by non-orthogonal lines more akin to nature – a reference to the graphic surrounding pine forest of the Landes – and the structural opening of one corner to Marsan’s urban context.
A combination of transparent and semi-transparent glasses with reflective stainless steel panels helps the project to comply with the classical surrounding layout. The appearing strictness is contrasted by reflecting the surroundings facades like a respectful mirror. The Media Library confirms its identity from whatever angles it is seen even if each facade has a specific treatment due to its orientation.
At night, the all building becomes a lantern that brings the square to nightlife, turning it into an inviting, open and transparent space.
The project is also strong when read from above and also around its facades due to the extension of a planted roof that makes the building appear to hover above the ground. Finally, the library is a much-loved asset and source of optimism for the city, uplifting its cultural symbol. it was shortlisted in the WAN Awards 2014 for the Glass in Architecture Category.