Houben: Delft University Library was start of development

Houben: Delft University Library was start of development



TU Delft Library celebrated its 25th anniversary on 15 May 2023. During the festivities, architect Francine Houben shared her thoughts on ‘the library of the future’ in the heart of the Delft University Library. She was working on that theme then and she still is now. For after the TU Delft Library, her firm Mecanoo realised a dozen more libraries.


Francine Houben talked about the future of libraries. (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

Houben explained her approach: she takes the existing environment as a starting point, she analyses the functions and she keeps the building’s arrangement flexible. In Delft, the library started behind the concrete auditorium as a flipped-up lawn. That replaced the car park that was there before. Books became a back wall for places of study and meeting. Computers popped up everywhere. Offices became project rooms. The layout was easy to change. Building for the future is flexible building, Houben told the audience.


After the Delft library, Mecanoo worked on the Library of Birmingham, the municipal library LocHal in an old railway workshop in Tilburg and the Martin Luther King Memorial Library in Washington. There she took on a creation by the famous modernist architect Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969). “The bookshelves were in daylight, but the people worked in the dark,” Houben told us. Last, she told of the combined renovation of the New York Public Library and the research library opposite in the Beaux Arts Stephen A. Schwarzman building. The latter renovation has not yet been completed. The public library is finished, though, and it offers affordable and good coffee on the only publicly accessible rooftop terrace in Manhattan. A basic requirement, according to Houben. (JW)


Science editor Jos Wassink

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