Ceci n´est pas une bibliothèque


“Ceci n´est pas une bibliothèque

This project arises in the context of an architectural competition organized by the Madrid City Council to create three new libraries -in three different neighborhoods- that completes the city’s library network.

We propose to act on the network of libraries instead of on isolated places. Act on the network as if it was an indivisible organism, instead of creating indivudual libraries. To Consolidate the network, to Reinvent it.

A series of spaces that complement each other instead of a sum of repeated spaces.

Is exactly another library what the network of libraries in Madrid needs in Las Tablas neighborhood?

We are going to put a cherry on the cake.

We imagine a secret garden in Candanchú Street, hidden behind its four walls. A contemporary paradise conceived exclusively as a space where you can read calmly.

The only way to access this space is by using the code that the books, borrowed in any library of the city, carry. The book is the key. It is not a metaphor. It is necessary to take it with you, to transport it around the city and to scan the code in the only door on the big wall.

Likewise, the only way to locate the exact place where the garden is located is through the map that is delivered with the borrowed book in the source library, and that serves at the same time as a page separator.

In front of the already established model of open and striking public building, we propose a building wrapped in mystery, which can only be found through a map, and which can only be accessed by carrying a book. Eroticism in front of pornography.

The network of libraries in New York will want a place like that.

And the one in Tokyo.

The movement between neighborhoods is promoted, the neighborhood exchange. The urban exploration.

Is it possible to imagine a different public building, beyond the iconic architecture pattern in which contemporary architecture seems to have stagnated?”


What prompted you to partake within the competition?

We have been theorizing about library projects for some time and when we found this competition, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to materialize those ideas. One of the things that we had been reflecting on is the fact that contemporary architects have been proposing the same type of building for decades, whether for libraries, museums, cultural centers, civic centers or even auditoriums. We refer to that iconic building that seeks to be very visible, very public, with a double height lobby, with large multipurpose rooms, etc. We wanted to research a bit on the typology of the library. Louis Khan said that the school began with a man under a tree who did not know he was a teacher, sharing his realization with a few others who did not know they were students. That’s what we wanted to explore in this project: the essence of a library. We wanted, as an ultimate goal, to create a wonderful place to read.

What is your take on the current state of architecture competitions?

We understand our practice as a laboratory dedicated to architectural research and for us, competitions are the perfect occasion to try to put our ideas into practice. It is not only because in the contests we have nothing to lose, but also the fact that we think that public institutions, which are the ones that usually call for competitions, need a renovation from an architectural point of view. We believe it is necessary that all architects with different points of view around public buildings should send their proposals to the competitions, even if only for institutions to know that there is still a field of research. For example, in this case, we propose a type of unconventional public building because it is public and at the same time is secret.

What informed the response to the brief and decision to work on the existing network rather than proposing a new set of buildings?

On the one hand, we always find it more interesting when a localized action can have influence on a larger scale, on a city scale. So instead of proposing another library, we designed a building that complements all the libraries in Madrid and suddenly the action became something more complex and organic.
On the other hand, we were concerned about the fact that the soul of a library, which is the area where books are stored, is increasingly becoming mere ornament. If we think of any library, the area with the bookshelves becomes less and less important. And the library that we project, or rather, the NO LIBRARY that we project, does not have a single book inside it, it is true, but to enter you need to bring a book taken in one of the many libraries in Madrid. Our building would contribute in this way to reinforce that part that we understand is the heart of the libraries, that area where those treasures that are the books are stored. Let’s say that all the shelving areas of all the libraries of Madrid and our secret garden together form a wonderful library the size of a city. The corridors that connect them are the streets of Madrid.

What role did the initial work sketches play in the development of the project?

The truth is that our projecting process is talking, asking questions. Our way of projecting is not far from the socratic maieutics. Every time we are throwing ideas and one of us says “What if …?” then we know that the thing is getting interesting. We only draw sketches when the other is not understanding what we are proposing. Then, of course, when we have an idea that we like, we explore it with all kinds of drawings, models, collages, etc., to see if it really works or not. But this always comes later, in the beginning there is only the word as the purest materialization of the idea.

How instrumental is the chosen language of representation as medium through which to talk about the project?

The idea of telling the project as a story was interesting for us in order to understand the importance of the previous process around our NO LIBRARY -which is secret, the idea that you have to follow a map to discover it, the fact that inner space is so different from any other space in Madrid, all that-.
One thing we had clear was that we wanted to treat the text as an image, since we wanted people to read it. In the times of Pinterest, Instagram, etc., making people read the explanatory text of a project is increasingly difficult. To achieve this, we conceive very visual texts, with an elaborate composition, and also with a simple and direct vocabulary.
On the other hand, the graphic of the imagess that accompany each text had to find its same narrative tone, its very minimalism and its very essence. Of course, we did several experiments to find out the best way to draw those scenes and in the end we opted for this one.

Did you ever think of developing/formatting this as a book?

From the moment we imagined this project as a story, we begin to imagine it as a book. In fact, we fantasized about the idea that this book was one that people would take to that place. After all, this project tries to give importance to the book as an object. It was tempting to imagine this story, which goes over books, in the form of a book. In fact, we would love it.

Where do you see the future of the institution of the library in our contemporary society?

As we have said before, it seems to us that the current libraries are taking a path in which books have less and less importance. Exactly like in our society, which increasingly requires less physical books. We are at a very interesting moment in history, where certain hundred-year-old typologies are, at least, undergoing transformations -not to say that they are disappearing-, such as churches or libraries, for example. Architects should be debating a lot more about them.
If we were to hypothesize about the future and the concept of Library in 100 years, we would say that they will be cemeteries of books and will have that aura of mystery that we like so much about cemeteries. Almost like museums. Museums dedicated to the book. To its smell. And having that aura of mystery they will precisely be attractive again to read and be in them. Only maybe they will not be called “libraries”.

How important is the book as tool in a society which is ever so more directed towards quick news and texts offered by the world wide web?

Obviously, nowadays, using a book – or promoting its use in a modern library project – is almost an act of romanticism. We have been putting our ideas on paper for thousands of years but, as we said before, we are undergoing times of profound transformation. In any case, in the end we will always find the medium to transmit our ideas, which is what really matters.

What is for you the architects most important tool?

The mind and the word. The origin of the word POETRY, which comes from the Greek, refers to the person “who creates or does something”. We understand that the word is the most abstract and purest way of materializing an idea.