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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

National Library, Astana, Kazakhstan

Copenhagen architects beat Foster and Hadid with 'modern and rational' library
Invited as one of five pre-selected architect led teams, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) was awarded first prize in an open international design competition which included 19 entrants amongst others Lord Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid.

The new National Library, named after the first President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, encompasses an estimated 33,000 sq m. The winning proposal was chosen by the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan K. Masimov together with Astana’s akim I.Tasmagambetov and a council of architects. The design was hailed as being both modern and rational and anchored in a classical vocabulary of traditional libraries.

"The design of the National Library combines four universal archetypes across space and time into a new national symbol: the circle, the rotunda, the arch and the yurt are merged into the form of a Moebius strip. The clarity of the circle, the courtyard of the rotunda, the gateway of the arch and the soft silhouette of the yurt are combined to create a new national monument appearing local and universal, contemporary and timeless, unique and archetypal at the same time," said Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner on the Astana National Library 2009

The win marks a significant achievement for the firm which is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with in top-end architecture. BIG's architectural achievements came to the fore with their Mountain Dwellings housing project in Copenhagen which won several awards for its ingenuity and since then the firm have raised the stakes competing with Foster, Nouvel and others for the Slussen regeneration, narrowly missing a win to Foster.

The design of the National Library will be a very significant project not just for the firm but for Kazakhastan and is hoped to become an icon for a country which has sadly become synonymous with the antics of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat character who hailed from its lands. The new National Library in Astana, Kazakhstan’s new capital since 1997, shall not only accumulate history but also provide a foundation for new futures for the nation and its new capital. It will serve as an intellectual, multifunctional and cultural center, with a primary goal of reflecting the establishment and development of a sovereign Kazakhstan, its political history, and the Head of the State’s activities and role in the development of the country.

An archive of books, films, magazines and other media is organized as a circular loop of knowledge, surrounded by light and air on both sides. On the periphery a 360 degree panorama of Astana - at the heart of the building a contemplative courtyard domed by the heavenly light blue of the celestial vault. A series of public programs will simultaneously wrap the library on the outside as well as the inside, above as well as below. Like a Möbius strip, the public programs move seamlessly from the inside to the outside and from ground to the sky providing spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and growing city skyline.

"The envelope of The National Library transcends the traditional architectural categories such as wall and roof. Like a yurt the wall becomes the roof, which becomes floor, which becomes the wall again," said Thomas Christoffersen, Project Leader on the National Library.
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