Official Website of Bibliothèque nationale de France
Gallica – The Digital Library of Bibliothèque nationale de France
Address: 12 quai Panhard-Levassor, Paris 13e, France
30 million items (14 million books and publications)
The National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France – BnF) is located in 13th Arrondissement in Paris. It is intended to be the repository of all that is published in France.
On 14 July 1988, President François Mitterrand announced the construction and the expansion of one of the largest and most modern libraries in the world, intended to cover all fields of knowledge, and designed to be accessible to all, using the most modern data transfer technologies, which could be consulted from a distance, and which would collaborate with other European libraries. Surprisingly, the library does not maintain a wireless network.
In July 1989, the services of the architectural firm of Dominique Perrault were retained. The architect has taken a reductively simple overall plan—four 25-story L-shaped towers of books (symbolizing open books) arranged at the corners of a giant platform around a sunken garden—and used repetition necessary in even a much smaller building to great effect. The result is a deceptively ordinary building that is actually quite exceptional.
The construction was carried out by Bouygues. Construction of the library ran into huge cost overruns and technical difficulties related to its high-rise design, so much so that it is commonly referred to as the "TGB" or "Très Grande Bibliothèque" (i.e. "Very Large Library," a sarcastic allusion to France's successful high-speed rail system, the TGV). at first appearance does emit a sense of rejection to the visitor. With its four repetitive corner towers framing a large and fairly empty raised platform, the national library can make you feel unwelcome.
Walking toward the building along the Seine, one is first presented with an overscaled stair, similar to the one at the base of the Grande Arche. The first step on this stair, leading to the top of a giant plinth on which the four towers sit, reveals the first of many pleasant surprises: its material, which looks so solid and cold from a distance, is wood. Indeed, a building whose primary materials are glass and steel manages to be remembered by its rich wood and luxurious red carpet.
Outside, the wood decking of the platform and the wooden screens protecting the books inside the four book towers provide texture and scale on what would otherwise be a forbidding building-scape (even if the need for screens has brought into question the original idea of storing books in transparent glass towers). Inside, a simple palate of red carpet, wood, and steel are combined in enough ways to lend a sense of cohesion and individuality to a large number of reading rooms arranged around the central sunken garden.
The National Library of France traces its origin to the royal library founded at the Louvre by Charles V in 1368. It expanded under Louis XIV and opened to the public in 1692. The library's collections swelled to over 300,000 volumes during the radical phase of the French Revolution when the private libraries of aristocrats and clergy were seized. After the establishment of the French First Republic in September 1792, "the Assembly declared the Bibliotheque du Roi to be national property and the institution was renamed the Bibliothèque Nationale. After four centuries of control by the Crown, this great library now became the property of the French people."
Following a series of regime changes in France, it became the Imperial National Library and in 1868 was moved to newly constructed buildings on the Rue de Richelieu designed by Henri Labrouste. Upon Labrouste's death in 1875 the library was further expanded, including the grand staircase and the Oval Room, by academic architect Jean-Louis Pascal. By 1896, the library had become the largest repository of books in the world, although it has since been surpassed by other libraries for that title.
After the move of the major collections from the rue de Richelieu, the National Library of France was inaugurated on 15 December 1996. It contains more than ten million volumes.
Project for Public Spaces has an interesting article naming the Library “The Hall of Shame” with the criticism of imposing non-human scale and the absence of any activity
View from Quai de la Gare. Right in front the Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir can be seen with its aproaches from to different levels: from the Quai and from the Library plateau.
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Three panoramas from 360 cities: