Bibliotheca Alexandrina

‘O Mother Nut, spread your wings over me

like the everlasting stars’

Tut Anch Amun, on his tomb in Thebes

‘the Greeks are children’

ancient Egyptian view of life

 

It is worth planting an apple tree an hour before the end of the world; it is worth attempting to provide architecture for a library which (if it had been saved) could bear witness against our ruined Christian and post-Christian civilization. The basis of these books, a longing for eternity, is a dream that has always been part of architecture as well – the longing for infinity in this medium that is so finite, so lithophile, or in the words of Louis Kahn: ‘silence and light’ as the origins of architecture.

Silence and light – that would be the law under which the new, old library could take its bow: the architect’s task to pour the experience of ancient Egypt, the source of all our experience of architecture, into new, spatial parables.

Collected knowledge, the Alexandrina books, dispersed for long enough and now assembled around one room, occupying the tiers of their theatre – books and readers are both actors and audience. Callimachus Hall is a scene within this picture, at the back the stepped wall of the Rare Book Collection, the two Callimachus towers for the most precious of these books and documents. The five cataracts of the Great Staircase lead to the many, the far too many, the 3.5 million volumes and periodicals in the standard library; the stacks are at the back of the relevant reading areas.

In sunblessed Egypt it’s a pleasure to allow light to filter through into this silent world of books: flat as the body of Mother Nut in ancient temples are all the roofs of the Alexandrina, dark blue, sown with golden stars, lamp spindles collect the sunlight, channel and filter it through the stone ceilings, distribute it as they received.

‘The visitor should be struck by the silence of the place’ said the brief – the model photographs show just that, and the images should be read correctly: the helpless reasoning of the Renaissance and its remakes, down to provisionally final Post-Modernism about five years ago, must have a stop.

 

GRUNDSTÜCK

Alexandria   Ägypten

 

NUTZUNG

Bibliothek

 

AUSLOBER

Republik Ägypten
UNESCO  UNDP  UIA

 

ARCHITEKT

Axel Schultes
in Bangert Jansen Scholz Schultes (BJSS)
mit Charlotte Frank

 

ENTWURF

Axel Schultes   Charlotte Frank

 

MITARBEIT

Koob   Schmidtutz   Krasenbrink
Ernst   Voigt   Benz   Kerber

 

WETTBEWERB

1989  –  1990

 

AUSZEICHNUNG

Honorable mention
6. Rang

 

FOTOS

Axel Schultes   Charlotte Frank