Rødovre Library

Rødovre is a suburb to the west of Copenhagen and was established as an independent municipality in 1901 but it was in the 1950s that a new civic centre was created with a new City Hall designed by Arne Jacobsen on the west side of a new square and completed in 1956. The first plan was to build a library and a new technical school on the east side of the square, facing the city hall, but only the library was built … a larger building than shown on the initial scheme and set slightly further north on the east side of the square with its entrance door immediately opposite the entrance into the City Hall, to form a cross axis to the square.

Not completed until 1969, Jacobsen’s library is a large, flat-roofed, single-storey building, that is clad in dark green/grey stone. In fact, the walls are built in brick and the panels of stone are supported proud of the structural wall with small steel anchors. 

There are no windows breaking through the outer wall - just doorways on the west entrance front (facing the City Hall) and on the east side of the building, immediately opposite the public entrance, as access for staff and services.

There are five open courtyards that are glazed on all four sides to bring natural light into the reading rooms and offices and meeting rooms set around the courtyards.

It is as if the aim was to create an inward-looking building to avoid the distraction of views to the World outside.

From the low and relatively dark entrance hall the public move through a sequence of spaces ahead and to either side that are different in size and vary in the amount of natural light. At the centre, beyond the entrance and the library desk, is a main hall for meetings or lectures that has a higher roof supported on columns that are inset from each corner of the space and there is a high clerestory with large sheets of glass and narrow, minimal frames for maximum light as the sun moves around the building during the day. The central area is a step down and the space seems to have the form of a covered atrium. 

A complicated use of geometry and proportions determines the position and the dimensions of all the main features through the building with a geometric grid that includes the courtyards, the main hall, the position and the size of enclosed offices, and the arrangement of doorways and windows and even the position and the dimension of the shelves for books. This geometric framework is used not just for the plan but also to determine the height of the main structure and, it would seem, the dimensions of architectural fittings. 

For instance the height from the basement floor to the underside of the ceiling of the main hall appears to be half the distance between the two cross walls. Although this was calculated using a relatively small reproduction of the drawing of the long section of the building, so complete accuracy cannot be verified, but it suggests that even those dimensions that are not obvious, when standing in the building, are determined by the grid and its underlying geometry.

Large stores in the basement are reached from the reading rooms by circular staircases with curved glass rather than railings so they are reminiscent of the secondary staircase in the Jespersen Building in Copenhagen that goes from the basement there to the first floor.

 
 

The Children’s Reading Room is to the north of the Main Hall and the larger Main Reading Room is to the south although that area was sbsequently altered with the removal of original divisions at the south end to create what is now a T-shaped room.

Original fittings and furniture by Jacobsen remain and the original colour scheme for the building can be seen with the framework of the windows into the courtyards in dark olive green; the main concrete piers painted deep blue and the acoustic panels of the ceiling, in drilled/pierced-aluminium sheets, is an ochre brown. The chairs were originally oak veneer but have subsequently been painted.

 

 

 

 

the stone facing of the outer walls is in large blocks that are 43" (110 cm) by 21" high (53 cm) - so almost a double square - and are laid precisely with a half overlap (like courses in standard brick work). The stone wall is not structural - there is a brick wall behind with a gap between the two - and the thin stones, more like tiles than ashlar blocks, are not set with mortar but have steel spacing pins in the edge to keep them a precise distance apart.

 

 

Note:

For a more detailed assessment of the geometry that underlies the plan of the building there is a longer post on Rødovre Library on the web site Danish Design Review