Mediatheque Mont-de-Marsan by Archi5

The new media library is a low, transparent, glass prism set into the grounds of a former military barracks

MONT-DE-MARSAN – Located in the grounds of a former barracks in the French municipality Mont-de-Marsan, Archi5’s new mediatheque – a sleek, glass box resting on a low mound – quickly became the talk of the town. We caught up with Thomas Dryjski, one of the firm’s associate partners, to discover more about the project.

How do you view the role of a library in the changing media landscape where more and more information is privately accessible?
Our task was to design a mediatheque that was more attractive than people’s own comfy sofas. In Mont-de-Marsan, we observed people coming to the library during the weekend. They came to meet others, but also to attend authors’ book readings, concerts, conferences and exhibitions: cultural events that you cannot find at home. In that case, architecture has to provide spaces to these, as well as the more quiet and intimate activities.

How did you organise these functions?
The organisation of our project displays the more public spaces close by the entrance and in the centre of the building. It creates intimate reading rooms along the façades. Comfortably sitting in a quiet space, while reading, you can also observe the movement of the city around. Almost 6 months after opening, 12,000 people – out of Mont-du-Marsan’s 50,000 inhabitants – come to the building at least once a week, something we’re very proud of.
 
How important was the organic shape of the courtyard?
The exterior envelope consists of clear, geometric lines, complying with the surrounding, classical layout. This apparent strictness is contrasted by reflecting the surroundings façades – like a respectful mirror. In the heart of the building, the courtyard is a system of non-orthogonal geometries more akin to nature – a reference to the surrounding pine forests of the Landes department.

The irregular courtyard seems to enable multiple points of view through and creates a more informal space both outside and around it.
The shape was inspired by Matisse’s drawings and naturally organises the various public functions on the ground floor. With a totally glazed façade, it maintains a visual continuity and evenly diffuses daylight and its slightly oblique façade prevents glare. The courtyard also challenges the traditional use of libraries by offering an additional outside reading room that provides a relaxed and contemplative atmosphere.

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