OMA has won the competition for a major new library, the Bibliothèque Multimédia à Vocation Régionale (BMVR), in Caen, France. The 12,000m2 building will be the focal point of new development in Caen. Surpassing five submissions by internationally-renowned competitors, the project, led by OMA associate-in-charge Clément Blanchet, will be OMA’s first cultural building in France.
The new library, located at the tip of Caen’s peninsula, includes four protruding wings that point towards four of the city’s landmarks: the abbeys Abbaye-aux-Dames in the north and Abbaye-aux-Hommes in the east; the central train station to the south; and the site of proposed future developments in the west.
The library consists of two intersecting reading rooms, which encourage maximum interface between the programmed disciplines: human sciences, science and technology, literature, and the arts.
OMA’s Clément Blanchet commented: “Instead of having four distinct areas linked by bridges, space is structured along two intersecting axes, creating a space of confluence for both knowledge and people.”
In the exterior spaces created by these intersecting reading rooms, the library interacts with its surroundings, opening up to a park, pedestrian pathway and waterfront plaza. Large windows span the height of the reading room and provide natural light. With dynamic views onto Caen and a simultaneous internal transparency, the building is an observatory of knowledge. It encourages the contemplation of the urban or cultural landscape, even as it serves the library’s traditional role as a space for reading, studying, and interacting with other users.
Philippe Duron, President Communauté d’agglomération Caen la Mer commented: “To build a library today is to believe in the future of our society, to acknowledge a desire to give everyone the tools to participate in our information age. For Caen and its surrounding region, the library makes physical, embodies, this desire. The library symbolizes both the international ambition of urban development and gives focus to the major renaissance of the peninsula. The architectural quality and intellectual influence of the BMVR will make it a flagship of its region.”
The design’s sustainable approach responds to local climactic conditions to ensure energy efficiency. Shallow floor plans maximise available natural light, creating the ideal reading environment crucial to a library.
With the BMVR in Caen, OMA continues its extensive experience designing and building libraries. In 2004, OMA completed the acclaimed Seattle Central Library, which redefined the library as a diverse public space, no longer exclusively dedicated to books, but now also an information store where all potent forms of media are presented equally and legibly. OMA’s design for the Education City Central Library in Qatar is currently in progress. In Paris, OMA made three groundbreaking proposals for libraries: Très Grande Bibliothèque de France in 1989 and two libraries for Jussieu University in 1992.
OMA has a long history working in France, including its famous proposal for Parc de la Villette, Paris in 1982, and several masterplans and studies for La Defense. In 1994, OMA completed Euralille, a masterplan for a 70-hectare business and civic centre comprising of a hub for European high-speed trains and the Grand Palais. OMA has also built two landmark private houses in France: the Villa Dall’ava in Paris (1991) and Maison á Bordeaux (1998), which was later awarded Monument Historique status.