Library of three million books at centre of Baghdad culture hub
Building’s solar-panelled sustainable roof touches on the delicate issue of the country’s oil-based economy
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 21 August 2013
A vast public library planned for Baghdad will be the centerpiece of a new culture hub under an ambitious new masterplan driven by the Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sport. The drop-shaped building, designed by AMBS architects in London, will house up to three million books, including rare manuscripts.
“The library will be at the heart of the Youth City; a masterplan of 1.2 million sq. m, with over 30 new buildings, including residential, cultural, official and sports venues,” says a press statement from AMBS architects.
A series of public events, from exhibitions to educational conferences, are due to be held in the new 45,000 sq. m library which, say the architects, will have a single span roof measuring 80 metres across. Digital media facilities will also be available.
The architects say that solar panels in the roof will help create a “visibly sustainable building”, touching on the delicate issue of Iraq’s oil-based infrastructure. “This represents our wider commitment to minimising environmental impact, optimising energy efficiency and working towards a future where Iraq’s economy is not solely dependent on oil,” says AMBS.
The Baghdad-based artist Furat al Jamil, who is participating in this year’s Venice Biennale in the Iraq pavilion, hopes however that the scheme does not become mired in political wrangling.
“This project would be more than viable, if all of the involved parties would pull at the same rope in one direction, and not oppose each other. This is presently the case with all kinds of wonderful projects that could benefit the people of Iraq, as people in positions of power have different political opinions or agendas,” she says.
The project is due to go out to tender for a contractor later this year, and is expected to be completed in three years time.
Meanwhile, Saad Eskander, the director of the Iraq National Library and Archives (INLA) in Baghdad, told Finnish press that construction has started on a new, $19 million, five-storey building which will house the institution’s digitalised audio-visual collections. “Eskander has been really supportive of our scheme, but the Ministry of Youth and Sport have yet to establish any formal association with the INLA,” says a spokeswoman for AMBS architects.
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