Public Library Enric Miralles in Palafolls

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Public Library Enric Miralles in Palafolls

A project that prolongs itself in time, turns into something special, becomes something that accompanies your life; it's built yourself...

The English architect Peter Smithson remarked that the fact that the Igualada Cemetery was built so gradually made it much more intense; it gave it that saturated atmosphere which made it captivating for everybody. It was as if the thousands and thousands of thoughts which arose during all those years of its construction ended up being trapped inside it, in the air around it…

A person with a trained eye can discern these subtle influences in buildings.

Planning for the Palafolls Library began more than ten years ago. It will be one of those pieces of architecture where one can find a particular intensity:
ten years in the history of Palafolls, of our lives, of the many people who have worked on it, a lot of thoughts, journeys, hands, eyes, seasons; it's all there inside..

The library project came to our studio during a time of very rapid expansion. After many years of participating in competitions, shows and doing classes at different Universities, big building projects started coming in: a city hall in Holland, a music school in Hamburg, a market and part of the Santa Caterina neighbourhood In Barcelona, a University in Venice and another in Vigo, two parks in Catalonia and the Parliament for the Independent Nova Scotia... A huge number of real projects covered our tables and filled our heads, while the studio filled up with collaborators...

Amidst those thousands of square meters constructed around the whole world and with such tough responsibilities, the Palafolls library project provided us with a breath of familiarity. It was like playing around at home. Here, we could allow ourselves the luxury of experimenting, doing the project following our own intuition, as we had always done…and not just frenetically respond, under pressure...

The Palafolls Library project was able to evolve gradually: it began as one large room with a vaulted ceiling, those magnificent vaults that Le Corbusier rediscovered for domestic architecture (like in the Sharabai House in Ahmedabad), but which have also always been a part of traditional Catalan architecture.

Afterwards, the vaults started to become quite complicated on plan while the building started to twist around itself, almost like a fetus inside the mother's belly...(it may be a coincidence, but at that time our son, Domènec, was growing inside MY belly!)

The library project was entered in the Council of Catalonia’s competition. The model was shaped like a loaf of bread!

After winning, we decided that the library couldn't be so abstract (self-absorbed), so we tried to open it up. We wanted to keep that warmth of feeling protected when you’re inside, but we also saw the need to create a stronger relationship with the world outside.

We didn't open "the loaf of bread"...we simply cut it the same way you cut bread, in slices!

We ended up with some really strange geometry; the cut up vaults that still covered just one space...

We thought these cuts could create a fantastic rhythm of entering light for the readers inside, and so we kept working...

The walls would then become lines that lead people on the outside towards the inside and again from inside to outside and they would also create secret courtyards where you could get outside with a book in your hand and find a place to read under a in an ancient garden...

The only real solid wall in the library is the one that marks the boundary between what's inside and what's outside. This line is "the door" to the library, and for us it's a genuine machine for sensorial transformation...

“Whoever crosses this magic border will penetrate into a mountain where light enters through many openings. Without losing this new magical state bestowed upon your body, you can go outside again to the courtyards. There, you'll discover that you're in a different place. From a distance you'll see that the Les Esplanes Park is still there, but that you are protected between low walls, in a more ancient garden... You'll be able to concentrate and read...”

… I'm sure this story would be familiar to Enric. We never said it out loud, but we knew that this is what we were doing when we designed the Palafolls library the way we did.

The world of imagination was essential when working with Enric... under the condition that it be kept secret!

Every user of the Palafolls library will keep the feeling they experience when they enter and are transformed a secret...Perhaps some won't ever realize it, but their brief stay inside will make them different...

So, having had enough time to grow, this magic transformation machine is coming to completion...

The library has gone through a lot of phases, a lot of people have worked on it...but the mayor of Palafolls, Valentí Agustí, has been there all along...He himself has been the most powerful transformation machine for the town!


14 photos and 2 drawings

Building Activity

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