In Norway when it comes to innovation the first words you hear are culture and environment. The autumn of 2014 will bring as a dowry to the city of Oslo a municipal public library that will be fully functional a couple of years later and whose specificity is the integration with the whole urban context around.
Optimization of building materials, public awareness with regard to environmental issues, full accessibility have been all in first place in the conception of this building.
Of course, not Europe alone rethinks the role of public libraries as places that play a social role that expresses itself through the designer’s knowledge about architectural structures and environmental psychology in urban spaces: public libraries in Seattle and the central Library of Vienna share an approach that sees cultural institutions as centers of aggregation in synergy with other city services.
A current issue is the conversion of pre-existing commercial or civil buildings into areas accessible to the culture, Europe stands out in the case of Stuttgart, with the birth of an entire district (focused on this feature) on the ashes of a disused railway junction.
The old continent retains an undeniable role in this field, also at the legislative level: Denmark in 2000 stated that “the purpose of public libraries is to promote information, education and cultural activities by making available books, periodicals , interactive books and other material, such as recorded music and electronic sources of information, including Internet and multimedia” and a 2009 report emphasized the importance of learning for social and territorial cohesion.
In at least one-fifth of the municipalities in Denmark many other public tasks, such as information about the city, are embedded in libraries. In all these cases the environment in which the books can be consulted by the public is changing, from a room full of collected papers to an open place for culture and learning with digital media and the availability of career guidance.
At the base of the architectural changes, there is a shift in perspective: rethinking the design of the library, from building designed to accommodate books to building aiming to the needs of the user. It is believed that more and more people are in need of upgraded and diversified amenities for the benefit of the individual and of society, rather than just looking for a particular text.