A good ribbing | Helen & Hard’s Vennesla Library
Monday, March 5th, 2012
By Stephen Killion
Architects and urban inhabitants should know by now that libraries are about much more than checking out books. They can be bustling public spaces used differently by each member of the community. Reinhard Kropf and Siv Helene Stangeland, founding principles of Norwegian based Helen & Hard, took this truth to heart in developing the new Vennesla Library and Cultural Center in Vennesla, Norway (pop: 12,000). The firm approached the library not just as a place to file books but as a social spine connecting an existing community house, learning center and sheltered outdoor plaza.
Helen & Hard chose a large open space determined by twenty-seven prefabricated glue-laminated timber ribs. Each rib acts not only as a structural element, but also contains the structure's lighting, shelving and seating in one architectonic module. While those curves dominate inside the naturally-lit open space and form the intimate reading niches, the exterior of the building exhibits strong sharp angles. The sum total vaguely reminds us of a Scandinavian mead hall, though we'd guess that mead-drinking is probably not encouraged in the niches.