Rotterdam Central Library

Reinventing an Icon

Love it or hate it, Rotterdam Central Library is an undeniable icon. Its architecture is spectacularly eccentric and it also marks the city’s transition from industrial port to aspiring knowledge center, and from monumental to human-scale planning. Our consortia won the prestigious commission to revive and extend Rotterdam’s iconic Central Library. It’s a privilege to work on the eye-catching building, originally designed by prominent Rotterdam architects Van den Broek & Bakema. We will optimize the original concept, update the building in line with contemporary standards of circularity, and reinvent it as a desirable destination.

Time span2021 - ongoing
Size25 173 m²
StatusConcept design phase
LocationRotterdam, NL
TypePublic Spaces
The City of Rotterdam, Rotterdam Public Library
Partner in charge
Stijn Kemper
Project team
The iconic yellow tubes return as multi-functional elements framing the building

We will transform the existing spaces for collections and storage into an open and welcoming environment for people to work and meet.

Nils Ole Brandtzæg, Atelier Oslo

Heart of the city

Open, accessible, and welcoming to the city
View of the new main entrance from the market square
The City Plaza and tribunal staircase on the ground floor
Cooking workshops and public café on the first floor
01 - 04
The city framed by crisscrossing escalators and glass ‘waterfall’

Let there be light

A reading space in the new wing

Let there be light

We transform the facade’s glass layer into a seamless expanse, bringing more light into the library, while restoring the rhythm of the crisscrossing escalators and increasing connectivity by adding wooden amphitheater stairs between the floors. The exterior yellow tubes originally for air conditioning remain in use – taking in untreated air and expelling used air – but are now extended to the ground, where they enliven the streetscape. We also add light and transparency with a new glazed timber construction at the back of the library – in blue, like the former storage area it replaces. The new extension maintains the eccentric language of the original building with a sequence of quirkily angled floors and unexpected yet welcoming nooks and crannies.

Our restoration returns the library to its former glory, or rather to the glory it never quite had.

A place for everyone

The ‘culture plaza’ with wooden amphitheater stairs
The children’s area, complete with climbing walls
There are plenty of quiet spots for story time
Shelves placed free in space to add a domestic feel
A green reading room on the 7th floor, the high point
01 - 05
The new wing: a circular, wooden construction

Visual connections

The cube houses, seen from the new wing

Visual connections

Our redesign strengthens the library’s relationship with its surroundings. The open and light new extension makes a visual connection with the cube houses – which share the color yellow with the library’s iconic tubes. We also added new, grand entrances on every side. These allow more direct access to the library’s heart and enhance the permeability of the ground floor space – open to the surrounding city fabric, including the lively market square, and as accessible and welcoming as ‘the city’s living room’. In addition to the public plaza on the ground floor, we added two more – the Culture Plaza on the fourth floor which showcases the important Erasmus collection.

We offer totally new qualities to the library with panoramic views over the city – a real gift to the city of Rotterdam.

Svein Lund, Lundhagem
The iconic yellow tubes frame a roof terrace with views of the city center

Radical views

Extra floor space, light, and transparency, are added by a new glazed timber construction

Radical views

We moved all the bookshelves and furniture away from the facade, opening up city panoramas. The new shelves are placed within the perimeter of new wooden cores that embedded within them house more secluded and intimate spaces that ensure that library visitors can be ‘alone together’. We replace the conventional front-end back-end layout with open floor plans. Wherever you are in the library, there’s a view outside. We removed low-hanging lamps and concealed all the installations in a double floor in order to create similar wide-open vistas inside. Analogous to a village the combination of sheltered spaces and open floors allow for diversity and versatility of the public space.

The cultural and historical characteristics, values, ​​and distinguishing features have been effectively studied, interpreted and, where necessary, modernized.

City of Rotterdam and Rotterdam Public Library
View of the new wing from the cube houses
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