With its design for the Bibliothèque Alexis de Tocqueville in Caen, France, OMA set out to answer the question, “What should the future of books be?” Their concept privileged human interaction over solemn, silent reading rooms, and the resulting building, which opened in January, is a cross-shaped complex with a communal area at its heart. OMA partner and project lead Chris van Duijn decided that part of the library’s print archives could be stored separately in an underground facility, with books easily obtained via requests made on electronic tablets. “We believe that physical books are relevant and should be part of the library,” he says. “But if we made them all publicly accessible it would fill the entire space, and we wanted to have that to do other things.” Gathering places in four window-lined wings point toward local landmarks, including the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, an 11th-century former monastery and present-day City Hall, and the Orne river. Views like that, at least, will not be outmoded any time soon.
David Basulto is the founder and editor-in-chief of ArchDaily.