Ravaged by the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in 2010, the small coastal town of Constitucion, Chile, has been steadily rebuilding, featuring the recently finished Public Library of Constitucion by local architect Sebastian Irarrazaval. The library is located along one of the edges of the central square, a site that holds civic and cultural importance to the town and elicits an opportunity to rethink a structure’s relationship to the public realm.
Three glass-clad wooden naves face the plaza allowing views both into the building and from within the building, establishing a constant connection between people and the books inside, while benches and shading at the foot of each nave provide public seating for the community. Irarrazaval elevated the first floor 1.6 meters above the street to get natural light into both levels of the library and offer various vantage points to the exterior/interior. Each wood-framed hall corresponds to the three main programmatic elements of the building: the children, young adult, and adult book sections, representing a clear spatial organization.
With the exception of the exposed concrete fire walls, the entire structure is made of light and heavy timber. Beams and columns are left as exposed as possible to allow for a structural understanding of the design, stout cross-bracing elements clearly show each plate and bolt connecting wood, to steel, to the concrete foundation. Thin wooden planks create a louvered system that covers the sky lit pitched roofs, filtering and controlling direct light so as not to disturb the readers inside. Custom made furniture serves multi-purpose functions, offering various seating arrangements, tables, and shelving in one fixture.
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