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Book Mountain in Rotterdam

MVRDV completes Book Mountain and Library Quarter Spijkenisse

Dutch architecture studio MVRDV have just completed a new 9,300 square metre library in Spijkenisse, a small city close to Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Under a glass ceiling, the building features a striking volume of shelves, a true “book mountain”. The book platforms are connected via wide stairs and together form a continuous route to the peak, which features a café.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-02-759x569 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© Jeroen Musch

Today Spijkenisse Book Mountain and the adjacent residential neighbourhood will be opened by Prinses Laurentien of the Netherlands. Manifesting itself clearly as a mountain of books on the towns market square, it is both an advertisement and an invitation for reading. Clever stacking of the buildings commercial functions produces its pyramidal form, which in turn, is wrapped in the libraries 480 meters route along bookshelves. Underneath the libraries barn shaped glass envelope the book gains a strong educational presence in this formerly agricultural community located close the docks of the Port of Rotterdam. The adjacent Library Quarter consisting of 42 social housing units, parking and public space is also a project by MVRDV, together with the Book Mountain it forms an exemplary eco-neighbourhood.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-03 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© Jeroen Musch

The library is designed as an advert for reading, its visible presence and invitation holding great significance for a community with 10 percent illiteracy. From underneath the glass dome the library is visible from all sides, especially from the adjacent market square where the library appears as one big book mountain. Underneath its monumental glass envelope damage to the books by sunlight is off-set by their normal 4 year life-span due to wear and tear from borrowing.

Located in the centre of Spijkenisse, the library with a total surface area of 9.300m2 sits on the market square next to the historical village church. Besides the library the building houses the environmental education centre, a chess club, auditorium, meeting rooms, commercial offices and retail. The exterior of the library refers in shape and materiality to the traditional Dutch Farm, a reminder of the towns agricultural past, which has grown from farming village to Ville Nouvelle in the past 40 years.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-04-759x505 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© Jeroen Musch

The library had to accommodate a number of other partly commercial functions. The stacking of this non-library programme forms a pyramidal base on which platforms are projected, housing the libraries bookshelves and shaping a powerful symbol. The book platforms are connected via wide stairs and together form a continuous route of 480 meters around the mountain to its peak where a café offers panoramic views over this Dutch Newtown.

In order to connect the former village centre visually and distinguish clearly between commercial and library programme, a ‘blanket’ of brick is laid over the neighbourhood and the libraries pyramidal heart. The Library sits on top of this with its floors, walls, ceilings and even doors made of the same brick. This consequent materialisation supports the public status of the library by communicating clearly the difference: behind the glass hood a library is visible, behind the brick sits the rest of the program.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-05-759x505 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© Jeroen Musch

Another reference to the towns agricultural past lies in the libraries bookshelves. Made of recycled flowerpots these elements are simultaneously fireproof and economic and provide a perfect background to the books and accompany the visitors through the building by taking on the functions of banister, parapet, information desk and bar. They form another element in the building’s palette of brick, glass and wood: recycled materials. Book shelves out of reach play an important visual role, housing the libraries archive.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-07-750x1000 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© Jeroen Musch

Following the maximum permitted volume the Book Mountain is covered by a barn shaped glass envelope with wooden trusses resulting in a transparent almost open air library. Underneath the glass is a public space without air conditioning. In summer natural ventilation and sun screens result in a comfortable indoor climate, in winter under-floor heating and double glazing maintain a stable interior environment. The climate system is based on an innovative combination of proven technology such as underground heat and cold storage, natural ventilation and many other interventions. The award winning invisible integrated technology was developed by Arcadis in collaboration with MVRDV.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-08-750x1000 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© Jeroen Musch

The new public library is part of a larger plan to strengthen and intensify the town centre. MVRDV have also designed the neighbouring development of 42 houses for a local housing corporation. The apartments inside the plan vary strongly in size, from studio apartments to housing fit for large families, attracting a more diverse urban population. A folly-like tilted house is the centre of this ensemble of abstract traditional typologies: contemporary reference instead of nostalgic replica. Housing and library share a common materiality, public space and environmental technology. In terms of identity the project resembles an out of scale farm, at the same time referring to, and becoming, a monument to the agricultural past of Spijkenisse, and its growth towards a city. On the new market square the outlines of buildings demolished during the 1960’s mark the old centre which has been turned now into a new village centre for a growing town, not nostalgic yet respecting the history.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-10-759x569 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© Jeroen Musch


(Spijkenisse, May 28 2009): Ground breaking for the construction of the new Public Library for Spijkenissse, near Rottterdam took place. Completion of the building designed by MVRDV is scheduled for fall 2011. The new public library with a surface of 10,000 m² will be an example of energy efficiency and advertise reading through its design of a book mountain.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-15-750x1000 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© flickr – westher

The new public library with a surface of 10,000 m² will be located in the inner city of Spijkenisse, at the corner of a major throughway, the central market square and the church opposite. In addition to the book collection and reading areas, the library will accommodate commercial facilities, offices, an auditorium, conference rooms, and exhibition spaces.

The exterior of the building refers to a traditional Dutch barn style typology, in shape and choice of material; as a memento to the agricultural history of Spijkenisse Village, now a suburban area of Rotterdam with statistically a low average of readers.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-16-750x1000 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© flickr – westher

The library is designed to advertise reading. By stacking facilities such as offices, meeting rooms and auditorium vertically, terraces of different sizes emerge upon which the book shelves are positioned creating a grand book mountain. The terraces are linked by staircases to form a route that curves around the mountain to the top, where a panoramic view of Spijkenisse awaits.

The book mountain is covered by a glass shell, creating a bell jar, an open-air library. The bell jar is a simple membrane, an almost invisible envelope that softens the edges of the building. The bell jar is also a climate-controlled public space. Solar protection (as used in greenhouses), natural ventilation and an underground heat storage system provide for comfortable conditions all year round. The climate system is a carefully balanced collection of sustainable features which together form an innovative new, highly sustainable system. Underneath the transparent bell jar, the library faces the streets on all sides, which enhances the safety of the public space around the building.

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© flickr – westher

The climate system was developed in close collaboration with Arcadis Engineers and was last year nominated for De Vernufteling award, declaring the library an inventive and resourceful project with social and economical importance.

The new public library is part of a greater scheme for the inner city of Spijkenisse. In order to strengthen and densify the inner city, MVRDV has proposed a series of apartment buildings which reflect the local typology though on a larger scale. The entire new complex including the public spaces will be clad in brick. The result is an extension of the existing pattern and enhancement of the local identity.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-21-750x1000 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© flickr – westher

The ground breaking ceremony took place in the presence of Spijkenisse City Councillors Gert Jan ‘t Hart and Marjolijne Lewis and the director of the Spijkenisse Public Library Mr. Huub Leenen. Further architect Winy Maas of MVRDV, Jaap Bosselaar and Charif Mounji of Arcadis and Mr. Meurs, director of contractor Vorm Bouw, took part in the ceremony which was also attended by elementary school children from Spijkenisse.

Book-Mountain-in-Rotterdam-By-MVRDV-28-759x499 Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV

© Jeroen Musch

Project Data:

Project name: Book Mountain
Location: Markt 40, 3201 Spijkenisse, Netherlands
Coordinates: 51.849600, 4.324743
Type: Library Interior

  • Public Library Area: 3500 sqm
  • Environmental Education Centre Area: 112 sqm
  • Chess Club Area: 140 sqm
  • Back Office Library Area: 370 sqm
  • Retail Area: 839 sqm
  • Commercial Offices Area: 510 sqm
  • Book capacity: 70,000 (with capacity for 80,000 more)

Project Start: 2003
Construction Start: May, 2009
Opening Date: october, 2012
Status: Built
Cost: 30 million EUR (incl. parking)
Completion Year: 2012


  • 2012 – Best Library of The Netherlands award – Second prize

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Gemeente Spijkenisse
Client Housing: de leeuw van putten housing corporation
Architects: MVRDV – Dunantstraat 10, 3024 BC, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Installations: ARCADIS
Structure: ABT i.o.v. ARCADIS
Contractor: VORM bouw
Technical architect: studio bouwhaven
Book shelves: keijsers interior projects
Glass: brakel atmos
Wood cover: de groot vroomshoop houtbouw
Interior advices: roukens + van gils
Material book shelves: klp, lankhorst
Climate, acoustics: dgmr
Lighting: arup, amsterdam
Lamps: viabizzuno
Foam furniture: feeks
Text Description: © Courtesy of MVRDV
Images: © Jeroen Musch, MVRDV, flickr – westher


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Book Mountain in Rotterdam / MVRDV
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