Bibliothèque Nationale François Mitterand
12 quai Panhard-Levassor
The newest of the Grands Projets
(Mitterrands 15 billion franc program to provide a series of modern monuments to
symbolize Frances central role in art, politics, and world economy at the end of the
twentieth century) is also the largest. But, for its size, it is also remarkable for the
attention paid to its smaller, human-scaled details. The architect has taken a reductively
simple overall planfour 25-story L-shaped towers of books (symbolizing open books)
arranged at the corners of a giant platform around a sunken gardenand used
repetition necessary in even a much smaller building to great effect. The result is a
deceptively ordinary building that is actually quite exceptional.
Walking toward the building along the Seine, one is first presented with an overscaled
stair, similar to the one at the base of the Grande
Arche. The first step on this stair, leading to the top of a giant plinth on which the
four towers sit, reveals the first of many pleasant surprises: its material, which looks
so solid and cold from a distance, is wood. Indeed, a building whose primary materials are
glass and steel manages to be remembered by its rich wood and luxurious red carpet.
Outside, the wood decking of the platform and
the wooden screens protecting the books inside the four book towers provide texture and
scale on what would otherwise be a forbidding building-scape (even if the need for screens
has brought into question the original idea of storing books in transparent glass towers).
Inside, a simple palate of red carpet, wood, and steel are combined in enough ways to lend
a sense of cohesion and individuality to a large number of reading rooms arranged around
the central sunken garden.
Jay Berman 1999
How to visit
Take the RER to the Library's own
station, Bibliothèque François Mitterand.
Books and other web
Click the book title to view and to order direct