In Copenhagen, the Royal Library, with its clean-cut lines and glittering polished surfaces, is one of the most significant architectural landmarks on the waterfront. Clad in black granite, the extension to the Royal Library is known as the Black Diamond and is a contemporary example of architecture that lasts.
The extension, which was inaugurated in 1999, marked a radical shift from traditional library structures and it accommodates a range of cultural facilities. Open and essentially democratic, the building includes scientific and literary institutions, exhibition rooms, a bookshop, a cafe and a restaurant, as well as a roof terrace and a hall with seats for concerts, theatrical performances and conferences.
Situated in the historic heart of Copenhagen, the building is shaped as a sculptural monolith – a shrine that holds the library’s national cultural heritage. Boasting almost 21,000 square metres of gross floor area, the extension has doubled the library’s overall size. The open shelves can accommodate more than 200,000 books compared to the previous capacity of 45,000 books.
In addition to the 450 rooms and 800 doors, the library has seven storeys plus a basement. The solid black cube is divided into two by a huge glassy atrium housing the majority of the public functions. Offering panoramic views over the waterfront, this central space also serves as an important source of daylight, which is distributed throughout the building. The facade on the building consists of 2,500 square metres of granite called Absolute Black, which is quarried in Zimbabwe, and cut to size and polished in northern Italy.
The atrium’s wavy walls were computed using more than 1,000 coordinates, which specified the formwork in which the concrete was moulded. The furniture was specially designed for the library by, among others, the Danish designer Lars Vejen during his time at schmidt hammer lassen architects.
The Kirkeby Bridge connects the Black Diamond with an earlier extension designed by Preben Hansen and the original library building from 1906 by H.J. Holm. The decoration on the ceiling was painted by the Danish artist Per Kirkeby using oil on wood. It covers an area of 210 square metres. Kirkeby painted the decoration on medium-density fibreboards in a gym, before the 144 wooden boards were mounted on the ceiling of the Kirkeby Bridge.
According to schmidt hammer lassen architects, the Royal Library has become an icon for Copenhagen – an accessible and public focal point for the city. The dynamic rooms are crowded with people and filled with movement and life, and in a sense, the building connects the public and private areas. The purpose of the public space around the building is to serve as a meeting point for everyone in Copenhagen.
“Architecture is closely connected to the experience of Sense of Place, and will change by degrees. In contemporary and future society, the library as institution will indisputably play a rising and significant role. The library will continuously be a unique space for learning, sharing, and interacting, as well as a haven for immersion and inspiration. I cannot imagine a time where such a place will ever be expendable,” says Bjarne Hammer, Founding Partner at schmidt hammer lassen architects.