Rem Koolhaas invents the future for libraries
Plans for The Qatar National Library reveal futuristic digital hub with 300 public computers and online databases
Rem Koolhaas's architectural practice, OMA, lists eight library projects on its site. These range from modest French university repositories through to Japanese copyright libraries. However, the Dutch-born architect's latest library, unveiled last week in Doha, must be the first to place so much emphasis on the digital, rather than the printed page. The Qatar National Library, which will open in 2014, will serve as the country's main source of reference, with over 60 online databases and websites and over 300 public computers as well as a number of multi-media production studios.
Far from being simply a dry academic institution, the library will also house a children’s library, a gaming section, a heritage exhibition space, as well as recorded music and film collections, and plenty of further facilities for students and researchers. Yet this sleek, geometric block of glass and steel set in the capital of this Gulf State also prides itself on its off-site facilities. The library is a founder partner of World Digital library, a UNESCO-backed initiative to expand the amount of cultural content available online and promote understanding between countries. To this effect, the QNL has struck a deal with The British Library to digitize 500,000 records relating to Qatar and make them freely available to the country's citizens. These documents, alongside millions of electronic books, will be made available to the library's users remotely via mobile phones or other hand-held devices. And Qatar can rely on its citizens having such devices more readily than most, since it is, by some estimations, the second highest per-capita income country in the world.
Is this the future of national libraries? And, if it is, does the digitising of book stacks, and the growth of the remote study space make designing them easier or harder? If you're an architect or maybe involved in the library system let us know what you think. And for more breathtaking contemporary buildings from around the world take a look at our 21st Century Atlas of World Architecture which features over 1,000 of the most outstanding works of architecture built since 2000.