Antwerp office Studio Farris Architects won a competition organised by the local council to renovate and expand the Sint-Andries City library, which occupies a listed building in the centre of the Belgian city.
To ensure the extension stood out against the pale colouring of the old library – as well as a row of other public buildings including the city's fire and police stations – the team covered the single-storey structure in sheets of Corten steel, giving it a rich orange colour.
Some of the sheets are patterned with small circular indentations and perforations, while others are smooth. The horizontal and vertical panels are fitted together in an interlocking formation that uniformly covers the exterior of the building.
"The request of the client consisted of a complex set of requirements, along with the wish to make the library more visible from the adjacent streets and give it its own identity to make it stand out from the multiplicity of other services located in the existing building," explained the architects.
"The extension is subordinate to the main building in terms of dimensions and is visually disconnected from it by its materialisation," they added. "The position of the extension emphasises the tension between the existing heritage building and the new volume."
Large windows are aligned with the corners of the extension, while the perforated Corten grills cover small square windows set at varying heights along the walls.
Inside, reading corners, computers and a reception desk are located near the windows to benefit from natural light, but also to pique the interest of passersby who the architects hope will be encouraged to use the new library.
Skylights and strip lights further illuminate the space. "To create a pleasant atmosphere in the library, three different types of windows were used, allowing visitors to enjoy natural light throughout the day and seasons," added the team.
White metal magazine racks and bookcases are arranged around the outer edges of the library and in rows in the centre floor.
A short corridor bridges the old and new library spaces and also provides an entrance. The dark parquet floor of the new library transitions to a polished grey covering where the two parts of the buildings meet.
Inked on a white wall opposite the tinted glass entrance is a quotation from local novelist Bart Moeyaert.
Photography is by Tim Van de Velde unless specified otherwise.
Client: City of Bruges
Architect: Studio Farris Architects
Structural engineering: Planet Engineering
Technical engineering: Studiebureau Boydens
Contractor: Bouw & Renovatie
Corten steel panels: Metal Design Works
Furniture: &tradition and Paola Lenti
Lighting: DCW, Viabizzuno, Bega, Trilux, Etap Lighting and Erco