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Asplund Library Revamp Goes to Hanada

November 28, 2007

By David Sokol

German architect Heike Hanada’s resume doesn’t boast much built work but for a gallery in Nagoya, Japan, a garden in Weimar, Germany, and a residence for a Japanese musician. Earlier this month, the 43-year-old designer broke pattern by winning the competition to expand Sweden’s Stockholm Public Library, originally designed by Erik Gunnar Asplund.

Stockholm Public Library
Stockholm Public Library
Images: Courtesy the Swedish Association of Architects

German architect Heike Hanada’s scheme entitled “Delphiniuim” has won the competition to expand the 80-year-old Stockholm Public Library, originally designed by Erik Gunnar Asplund, in Sweden. She has proposed adding a 10-story tower and a new entry to the north of the original drum-shaped building.

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With almost 1,200 entries received, the competition, organized by the Swedish Association of Architects, is among the largest such contests in architecture history. Hanada’s proposal, entitled Delphinium, was among six projects short-listed in February. The library has outgrown its 80-year-old, 34,000-square-foot complex and sought a significant addition to accommodate an expanded collection of traditional and new-media library materials, meeting rooms, and programming spaces for contemporary public use.

A majority of Hanada’s practice heretofore was devoted to art installations. Works such as Hotel Van de Velde, Density of the Void, and Out_Distances contemplated urban spaces that had been made inaccessible by neglect, surveillance technologies, or other phenomena. The Stockholm Public Library’s site suffers from a similar lack of easy usability; the rugged Observatory Hill bisects the plot. Whereas runner-up submissions Cut and Dikthörnan both imagined partially carving out Observatory Hill and filling it with architectural space, Delphinium celebrates the topographical hurdle as it is. The rear of a low-rise entry building hugs the prow of Observatory Hill and a garden nestles into the semicircular space between building and hillside—what the jury report describes as a “secret garden” and “a new public space in the city.”

The entry is flanked by the original library as well as a new 10-story building that abuts the northern side of Observatory Hill. The tower is Delphinium’s largest component and, notably, it stands further from Asplund’s creation than the additions proposed by the five other finalists. According to the jury report, “It creates a distance to the Asplund building that enables two distinguished buildings to be in symbiosis on the site with clear space and respectful distance to each other.”

In Hanada’s initial proposal, the tower would have been screen-printed with images of delphinium flowers, but she has since eliminated that surface treatment—not unlike how Asplund himself stripped his classical design of ornament. Translucent glass now comprises Delphinium’s skin. The building is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2013.

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