Katowice Scientific Information Centre
and Academic Library by HS99

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A grid of red sandstone panels dominates every side of this university library in Katowice, Poland, by architects HS99 (+ slideshow).

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Architects Dariusz Herman, Piotr Smierzewski and Wojciech Subalski arranged the rectangular panels in a brickwork-style pattern to "relate to the raw clay bricks on the neighbouring buildings," but used a different scale.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Gaps between the panels create hundreds of narrow windows, which become slivers of light all over the facade after dark.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

HS99 won a competition back in 2002 to design the library, which houses a series of scientific and economic collections for the University of Silesia and is the first stage in a campus-wide redevelopment.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Three large floors form the main volume of the library, matching the scale of the neighbouring university campus buildings, while three upper floors with a smaller footprint create a slab-like tower at the north-east corner.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

The architects planned this taller block as a visual marker for students, directing them towards the public square that lines the edge of the building.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Students enter the library through a three-storey-high atrium, which leads to reading rooms, group study areas, conference rooms and individual workspaces amongst the bookshelves.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Above: photograph is by Tomasz Zakrzewski

"The interiors are zoned to respond to the many ways in which research and study can take place," Smierzewski told Dezeen. "We've create a wide variety of environments ranging from social to intimate."

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Above: photograph is by Tomasz Zakrzewski

Precast concrete panels cover the interior walls, while grated ceilings offer glimpses of the mechanical systems behind them. "The utilitarian materiality and finishing alludes to the Silesian region's heritage rooted in mining and other forms of heavy industry," said Smierzewski.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Other libraries on Dezeen include a glass pyramid by MVRDV and a golden library by COBE and Transform.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

See more stories about libraries »

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Photography is by Jakub Certowicz, apart from otherwise stated.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Here's some more information from HS99:


Katowice – CINiBA (The Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library)

In 2002 a competition was launched by the University of Silesia for the design of a new library that would provide a world-class didactic facility for scientific research. The flexibility the winning proposal offered proved to be its major strength when, after securing a building permit, the program was modified to also include the collections of the University of Economics with no changes to the exterior form.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

The Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library (Polish acronym: CINiBA) anchors the new campus redevelopment plan to be implemented in the coming years.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Located at the intersection of the east-west axis that forms the spine of the campus, and the north-south axis which connects the recreational grounds by the river to land set aside for further university expansion, the library reinforces the axial organization which has so far been poorly articulated. A central university square at the foot of the library, the FORUM, generates a civic gathering place that opens onto the library’s grand three storey atrium.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

The height of the library has been determined by the average height of buildings on the university campus. The north elevation surpassing this height is directed towards the FORUM and houses the library’s closed stacks. This elevation emphasizes the rank and function of the FORUM and is in dialogue with the existing tall buildings which close the east-west axis.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

The facades, clad in a repetitious fabric of rich kahan red sandstone, relate to the raw clay bricks on the neighbouring buildings without the connotation of scale inherent to a singular brick element. The exterior treatment abstracts the building’s function of organized book storing while introducing a notion of mystery inseparably connected to books.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Site plan - click for larger image

The lack of discernible scale produces a monolith when seen from afar that is gradually familiarized. Details such as the decreasing proportions of the façade tiling, the irregular cut of the sandstone slabs, as well as the windows carefully nested inside become visible.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Ground floor plan - click for larger image

The fenestration projects a stunning patchwork of light onto the FORUM at night, yet in the daytime allows diffused light to permeate into the library’s reading rooms. The resulting strongly introverted interior composition of the library floors focuses one’s attention onto the books while calming the space. Partial isolation from the external world not only influences the atmosphere within but also introduces a flow of time detached from the pulse of the surrounding city.

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

First floor plan - click for larger image

Location: Katowice, ul. Bankowa 11a
Client: Consortium of the University of Silesia and University of Economics in Katowice
Design: SARP Competition No. 924: 12.2002 (1st prize)
Building Permit Secured: 2004

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Second floor plan - click for larger image

Construction: 2009-2011
Building Footprint: 2 910 m2
Total Floor Area: 10562 m2

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Longitudinal section - click for larger image

Volume: 62 560 m3
Net Floor Area: 12 273 m2
Gross Floor Area: 13 260 m2

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

Cross section - click for larger image

Maximum Volume Storage: 2 000 000 books
Volumes Currently Held: 340 000 books (open collection); 460 000 books (closed collection)

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

North elevation - click for larger image

Team: HS99, Dariusz Herman, Piotr Smierzewski, Wojciech Subalski,
Cooperation: Rafal Sobieraj, Adam Kulesza, Jacek Moczała, Wojciech Słupczyński
Structural Design: Jan Filipkowski, Joanna Jacoszek, Jerzy Rawski, Mariusz Staszewski

Katowice Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library by HS99

West elevation - click for larger image

  • Clarence Chin

    Very nice building. Love the subtle reflection on the environment around it, the gradient of sizes of sandstone as it moves up and the porosity of the building, reducing the entire mass of the block. Lovely. Have not seen such a sensitive building for ages. Great work.

  • Seb H

    Very nice project! Obviously with a huge and slightly dated dutch influence, but still a very, very nice job. Look at the external works against the facade – just beautiful. Well done to the team! How come you wouldn't find a building of such quality and modesty these days in the UK?

  • mksh

    I’m trying to understand why I’m so pleased with this building. And I really am, it is excellent.

    I think it comes down to this: it is extremely architectural. Every piece of material, every column every beam, every brick, every screw seems well placed and plays it part. In the end it is an extremely simple building; there’s no surplus of elements, no decoration, it is not dressed up architecture. Instead, it’s architecture how it should be done: richness through getting most out of what’s necessary.

  • Daniel

    It’s hard to imagine any better material for this facade than the stone here. Makes for a dignified yet unpretentious building.

  • noyz

    I agree with above commentors but I think the staircase is out of place, doesn’t match the general mood of the architecture and not sure about its position either.