“Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.”Neil Gaiman1
It is undeniable that libraries have direct and significant impact on societies all over the world2. Library and society are interlinked and interdependent, because it holds cumulated and consolidated intellectual output of society as well as playing pivotal role in molding and shaping it. The definition of library is “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films are kept for use but not for sale” 3. Even though the definition indicates need for some kind of written or recorded material, there has always been some form of a library in existence.As long as there have been people to record and document information about the world around them, there have been libraries to store that information. It is even possible to trace it back to prehistoric ages, where drawings on the walls of caves were used in order to pass the knowledge along.
F?GURE – caves
The word library derives from the Latin librarium meaning “chest for books” and from liber which means “book/ paper/ parchment,” originally “the inner bark of trees”4. In the ancient times, libraries, archives and museums had the same name because all of them were accepted as home of Muses(9 goddesses of art), but their names are diversified over the centuries5. Throughout history, the typology of library has changed but its significant effect on the societies did not change at all.
2. HISTORICAL AND ARCHITECTURAL DEVELOPMENTS
Creation of a form of book could only be possible after the writing was invented by Sumerians around 3000 BC. Sumerians are one of the earliest civilizations in the world, which were established in modern-day Iraq. This type of writing is called cuneiform and clay tablets are used as the writing material. Also in Egypt, hieroglyphs were used on papyrus(made from plant) in 3000 BC and parchment(made from animal skin) after 150 BC.
F?GURE – clay – hieroglif
Some evidence of a library was found in a temple in Nippur (today in Iraq), which dates back to 1900BC. The temple was found to have a number of rooms filled with clay tablets6. However, Royal Library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh is assumed as the oldest surviving royal library. It dates back to 7th Century BC and it hosted 30,000 clay tablets of cuneiform script including Enuma And Enlil, which is the prophecies about the planets, their visibility, eclipses, the weather, thunder, clouds, astronomic tests and medical diagnoses7. In 3rd Century BC, a hellenistic style library was constructed in Egypt, called Royal Library of Alexandria.
It is accepted as the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It was founded and expanded by the rulers of Ptolemaic Dynasty, who followed Alexander the Great. The library hosted 700,000 papyrus rolls until most of them were damaged by a fire in 48 BC. Before it was destroyed after many attacks, it was part of the Mouseion, which means museum and was an early university at that time. The Mouseion included lecture halls, meeting rooms and gardens apart from this immense library. It was mainly used for religious education and it is told that many scholars such as Euclid and Archimedes used this place during their researches8. When multiple fires destroyed Alexandria, over half of all mankind’s recorded knowledge was lost, or as Ted Hughes put it in his poem, “Hear it again, the burning of the library brain-damaged the human race” 9.
In order to revive the old library, UNESCO opened a competition in 1988 and a Norwegian office called Snohetta won. The new library was reopened in 2002, including a manuscript museum and a restoration laboratory. It is a 160 meter-wide cylinder, can hold over 8 million books and the location is closer to the ancient one’s8.
Another Hellenistic style library is the Great Library of Pergamon located in ?zmir, Turkey. It was constructed around 2nd-3rd Century BC. It includes library hall, banqueting hall for dining events and storage rooms. It could be used for debates, lectures, ceremonies and study. Today, there are only ruins of the library as well as the ruins of the other parts of the city of Pergamon. It is now accepted that the large Hellenistic libraries, such as those at Alexandria and Pergamon, presented the following members:
“a monumental room dominated by the statue of a deity, mainly of Athena, opposite the main entrance. This room was equipped with an exedra built parallel with the side walls and ending in a small wall that formed the base of the bookshelves. These shelves took the form of closed cupboards about 2 meters high, leaving the rest of the wall up to the roof free for a row of windows that admitted light”10.
Moreover, in 2nd Century AD, Great Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey was constructed in honor of the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. It was storing 12,000 papyrus scrolls and it was also a monumental tomb for Julius Celsus7. Collections of written knowledge were kept in repository, where there were no shelves but rather cupboard of niches on the walls like little slots. There was double walls behind the bookcases to protect papyrus scrolls from temperature and humidity11. As more years progressed, libraries began to shift from the scrolls to codex format, which was developed by the Romans in the 1st Century AD, because it was compact, sturdy and easy to use2.
In the Islamic world, libraries were used in order to preserve Quran rather than for public use and students were getting Islamic education in libraries. They were mostly part of the mosques. Many people were free to participate the production and distribution of books such as authors, translators, copiers, librarians, booksellers’ collectors from all classes and sections of society, of all nationalities and ethnic background. By the 9th Century AD. public libraries called Halls of Science(Dar Al-ilm) were opened. In Baghdad, another public library House of Wisdom was constructed in 11th Century. The books were made of papyrus or bark, and were kept in locked glass cases to protect them from insects. It was forbidden to use ink near the books and the books should be kept away from the floor8. During the Dark Ages of Europe, Islamic libraries preserved many classical collections. Apart from Islamic libraries, Byzantium also preserved Greek and Roman Classics while monastic libraries in Europe were destroying all non-Christian books. “The Byzantine culture valued education, and in order to teach more people to read and write, they founded the Imperial Library in Constantinople, in the capital of the Roman Empire”8. It was the last of the great libraries of the ancient world and was destroyed in 1453 mostly during Ottoman invasions.
Johannes Gutenberg’s movable type innovation in the 15th century revolutionized bookmaking and reduced the price11. This Renaissance era, was the time of rise of art and literature, and this also reflected to the libraries. Libraries were not only to store books anymore, but also to preserve the cultural heritage of the nations. In Rome, the papal collections were gathered at Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana(Vatican Library) in 14508. Between 1600 and 1700, it was the “golden age of libraries, because of factors such as:
“The quantity of books had gone up, as the cost had gone down, there was a renewal in the interest of classical literature and culture, nationalism was encouraging nations to build great libraries, universities were playing a more prominent role in education, and renaissance thinkers and writers were producing great works. Some of the more important libraries include the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the Library of the British Museum, the Mazarine Library and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, and the National Central Library in Italy, the Prussian State Library, the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library of St. Petersburg, and many more”11.
During golden age of libraries, some university libraries and national libraries started to emerge such as Harvard Public Library in the late 1700s, and British National Museum Library in 1753.
In the 19th Century, after Public Libraries act in 1842, a modern, knowledgeable and literate society was aimed. Thus, many public libraries started to open and they rapidly became free institutions in order to reach more people. In order to carry the immense load that the books cause, constructional ironwork was essential. Until 1870s the ironwork was hidden in the walls, however later on the structure was freely expressed and used as an architectural tool12. This definitely provided a sense of modernity in the libraries. With the developing technology, much more modern and outstanding examples have been constructed and continue to be constructed. FIGURE
In the current situation, libraries are designed to be more than their primary function. This provides them to be more usable and crowded, thus some of them become important focal points in the cities. One of these impressive examples is Sendai Mediatheque by Too Ito. In the rest of the paper, Sendai Mediatheque by Too Ito, which sone of those impressive examples is analyzed in conceptual, architectural and structural aspects.
3. CASE STUDY: SENDAI MEDIATHEQUE
3.1. GENERAL INFORMATION
Sendai Mediatheque is a multi-function complex accommodating a mixed program such as library, art gallery, audio-visual library, film studio and cafe. The architectural firm is Toyo Ito & Associates. The building is located in Sendai City, Japan.
FIGURE – sendai map
The total area of the site is 3,948.72 m² and the total floor area is 21,682.15 m². The dimensions of the building is 50 m x 50 m and the height is 36.49 m. The building has 7 stories and 2 basement levels. Main structural material is steel frame but in the basements reinforced concrete is also used. Since the building is structurally very challenging, many consultancy service on structural, mechanical and lighting design have been received during design and construction process. Sasaki Structural Consultants as structural engineers; ES Associates, Sogo Consultants and Otaki E&M Consultants as mechanical engineers; Light Design Inc. as lighting consultants have been participated to the creation process13.
Sendai Mediatheque was designed between 1995 and 1997 after the new mayor decided that this developing city needed a more appropriate modern civic symbol than the ruins of its seventeenth century castle and started a competition for a new dynamic public center. 235 projects applied to the competition and Toyo Ito’s proposal which was a transparent block whose supports would be wrapped in glass and dematerialized14. However, since Sendai city is very conservative, many people disagreed with the project as soon as it was announced as the winner. Director Emieko Okuyuma observes: ‘When we first announced this project, opponents thought it would be a dangerous monster. In fact, people have responded to the welcoming atmosphere and bright colours. Attendance is larger and younger than we anticipated’14. After it was constructed between 1997 and 2000, people accepted the building as a part of their society and now many people use it during their daily activities.
In order to understand the conceptual ideas behind this extraordinary building, the architectural philosophy of Ito should be explained. Ito was born in South Korea in 1941. He is an influential architect with his ideas on contemporary urban form. He graduated from Tokyo University in 1965. He is mostly inspired from philosophers such as Mita and Deleuze. His designs explores the potentials and extend the borders of new forms, as an outcome creates new spatial conditions that manifest the philosophy of borderless architecture15. Rather than strictly divided interior spaces, he is in favor of providing borderless open spaces that can be used for many different functions according to the users’ needs.
He has won many awards including RIBA Royal gold Medal in 2005 for Sendai Mediatheque15.
3.2. CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS
Le Corbusier’s Domino system was the main influence for Ito in this project. He took the idea of domino effect having flat slabs and replaces the columns by asymmetrically replaced structural members, which reflects the modular nature of the building.