The House of Wisdom, a library and cultural centre designed by Foster + Partners for Sharjah, will feature a cantilevered roof and a book-printing machine.
The library’s roof will overhang the two-storey building’s facades by 15-metres in all directions to provide shade during the hot days of the city in the United Arab Emirates.
The House of Wisdom’s glass walls will also be shaded by moveable aluminium screens of varied densities, designed to diffuse the afternoon sun.
Inside, the library will feature reading pods and a “book espresso machine” that can print and bind books on demand.
Foster + Partners, which was founded by British architect Norman Foster in 1967, designed the House of Wisdom for the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority.
Sharjah is this year’s UNESCO World Book Capital, an annual event that promotes books and reading in the host city.
“Long considered primarily as repositories for books and periodicals, the role of libraries in the life of contemporary communities is set to be reimagined for the 21st century,” said Gerard Evenden, Foster + Partners’ head of studio.
“The House of Wisdom conceptualises the library as a social hub for learning, supported by innovation and technology.”
An entrance on the western side of the rectangular building will lead to a double height foyer. Two sculptural staircases will lead to the upper floor.
The top floor of the House of Wisdom has been conceived as a series of “pod spaces” for quiet reading, exhibition spaces, women-only areas and a prayer room.
The book-printing machine will be located on the ground floor, along with an archive, a cafe, an exhibition space and a children’s learning area.
Gardens will surround the library, complete with water features, a children’s playground, and a sculpture by Gerry Judah.
The Scroll by British sculptor Judah, has already been unveiled as part of the celebrations and will sit alongside the library. Judah created the artwork from laser-cut rolled steel plates that have been treated to protect the sculpture from erosion during sandstorms.
Several well-known architects have designed landmark libraries that feature more than just books in recent years.
MVRDV designed a library in Tianjin, China, shaped like a giant eye with a spherical auditorium in the centre, while ALA Architects built a new library for Helsinki that has only 100,000 books but features a cinema, recording studios, maker space and areas for exhibitions and events.