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Finding a natural solution

Green Architecture Spotlight: Germany's Bibliosphere

by Kristin Standley

Tags: green architecture spotlight, Bibliosphere, University of Duisburg-Essen, green design, sustainable architecture,

Being a big nerd, I always thought libraries were one of the coolest places in the world. Now, thanks to some impressive new designs, other people are beginning to think so too. Rem Koolhaas’s Seattle Public Library is a giant ramp encased in glass. The Arabian Library in Scottsdale, Arizona, earned a LEED Silver rating and the 2008 Smart Environments Award, while the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, earned a much-coveted LEED Platinum rating.

But it is the proposed Bibliosphere at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany that tops them all. Combining a quirky modern form with green design, this “Death Star” library will act as a unique landmark for the city. (With its modern spherical shape and large size, the building has been said to jokingly resemble the Death Star battle ship from Star Wars). Architecture firm Greeen! designed Bibliosphere for an international competition (although the firm did not win—architectural firm KSP Engel and Zimmermann took that honor with a glass cube design).

Bibliosphere will act as a huge landmark for Essen, Germany. Photo Courtesy Inhabitat.

This giant sphere is both a new library and office building and was designed to create a place where the city of Essen and the University could come together. The façade of the sphere is oriented toward the city. The library’s reading rooms will use natural ventilation and lighting as well as solar protection films on the glass to save energy. The transparent nature of the library from the glass shell will provide views of the city and a healthy working environment.

The Bibliosphere will use renewable energy resources and is expected to cut energy consumption by more than 50 percent of what German standards require. Bibliosphere architects are aiming for gold certification from the German Sustainable Building Council, a member of the World Green Building Council.

bibliosphere night
This rendering shows how Bibliosphere will look at night. Photo Courtesy Inhabitat.

The architects at Greeen! have 10 years of environmental design experience. This European firm believes that environmental architecture needs to provide not only energy-saving benefits, but also needs to create comfortable human spaces. Greeen! designs, such as the Bibliosphere, are based on seven basic principles: interdisciplinarity; human-scale; spaces for living; sustainable architecture; ecological design; energy-solving building concepts; and reasonable solutions. With all these considerations in mind, it’s no wonder people are getting excited over the Bibliosphere.