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23 Jan 2020

Schmidt Hammer Lassen design hybrid library-theatre for Skien
BY Stu Robarts

The library would house a citizens’ service centre, a tourist information centre and flexible common rooms, outdoor spaces and administrative offices

The library would house a citizens’ service centre, a tourist information centre and flexible common rooms, outdoor spaces and administrative offices
photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen

A team led by Schmidt Hammer Lassen (SHL) is one of two left in the running to create a new library in Skien, Norway, with a hybrid design that will allow visitors to experience the work and influence of Henrik Ibsen.

The Ibsen Library is being established to drive increased social involvement and democratic participation in the region, to become a visitor attraction and to honour the legacy of the famed Norwegian playwright.

SHL, working with landscape architects SLA and engineering firm Rambøll Norge, have developed a design for a site in the city's dairy quarter, Meierikvartalet, while a Kengo Kuma & Associates-led team is in competition with its design for a separate site in its cultural quarter.

Located "steps from Ibsen’s birthplace", the SHL design has been conceived to become a key cultural centre for Skien, housing exhibition and performance spaces for presenting the work of Ibsen and others.

Naturally, it would house the library function too, as well as a dissemination centre for Ibsen's work, a citizens’ service centre, a tourist information centre, flexible common rooms, outdoor spaces and administrative offices.

"Like Dokk1, our award-winning mixed-use library in Denmark, Skien Library will join a new generation of modern hybrid libraries that bring citizens and visitors together for knowledge sharing in a multipurpose cultural institution," explained SHL.

"Just like Ibsen himself, the building is not afraid of contrasts or coexistence of different interests, which are some of the basic principles behind libraries as the democratic space of society. The theatrical and poetic character of the library reveals itself in diversity of spatiality and materiality."

The building itself would cover an area of 7,800 sq m (184,000sq ft) and comprise a series of volumes split across three levels.

Overlooking four streets, it is intended to be porous, inclusive and welcoming, as well as to foster the movement of people through the Meierikvartalet via its linked indoor and outdoor spaces.

A decision about which design will be chosen will is expected in March 2020.



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