Yi Architects: New City Library on Mailänder Platz, Stuttgart

A Building with Character

Witten, November 2012. In architectural terms, Stuttgart’s new City Library is a true solitaire, a landmark on the city’s skyline. This building, in the shape of a cube, has generated tremendous interest both through the unusual concept and its unique architecture. It is a conspicuous cube of glass in the city’s Newquarter, the Europaviertel, by day. By night, the façade glows with an impressive, gentle elegance. One of the key elements of the interior is the “heart” of the library. This immense completely empty space, stretching upwards four stories, gives the impression of having been carved from a single block. The clear, almost seamless surfaces of its walls and floors echo the sense of architectural excellence. This characteristic effect of the room was achieved by using unique, top-quality materials.

In explaining the decision to award the contract to the Korean archi-tect Prof. Eun Young Yi, the awarding jury remarked that, “This is a building with character, one that you can take issue with.” Professor Yi designed the new City Library on Mailänder Platz as a freestand-ing, crystalline edifice – a glass cube with a compact structure, in both architectural and technical terms. It is an outstanding monolith, in the challenging surroundings of the Europaviertel, a new district being created near Stuttgart’s main railway station. The building is accessi-ble from all four sides and reaqcehs nine levels above ground, as well as two below, offering room for half a million books and media over an area of more than 11,500 square metres. The outer envelope of the building consists of a twin façade, with glass bricks in a light frame of fair faced concrete and an inner façade of glass. The plain and simple shape of the cube underlines the public importance of the building.

Mental clarity and tranquillity are of the essence

In the very centre of the building, is the so-called “heart” of the li-brary: a place where one can immerse oneself, and at the same time an oasis of peace for visitors from the increasingly hectic world beyond. This completely empty room, stretching upwards four levels to a height of 14 metres, is the nucleus of the library, a concept inspired by the Pantheon of ancient Rome. The uncompromising geometric lan-guage of the building’s outer shape is rigorously carried over into its interior. The result: an ordered, geometric, pure-white room in the shape of a perfect cube. It is illuminated by a central skylight, giving it its meditative tranquil character.

In order to achieve the room’s characteristic effect, the architects opted for a particularly high-quality material: Pandomo by ARDEX. These modern systems permit the creation of seamless, individual sur-faces on the floor and wall, retaining open all the options for the archi-tectural design. The aim was to create a continuum inside the room, from the floors to the walls and on to the ceiling, with completely ho-mogenous surfaces, to produce a deliberately clear and unadorned ef-fect. The result is more than 1,000 square metres of entirely uniform, pure-white walls and floors, with a soundproof ceiling of a precisely matching colour and effect. The result is puristic, with a modern aes-thetic, without being cold. The virtually seamless flatness of the sur-face gives it a spacious look and intensifies the defining experience of space. All the surfaces share the same high-class, silky sheen, which produces the special look of superior quality.

Unique surfaces

In order to achieve the desired effects in the “heart”, the architects se-lected the cement-based decorative finishing render Pandomo Wall for the large, 15 x 15 m wall sections. The pure-white material is applied manually, directly to the walls; in view of the colour concept, there were no pigments added to the render mix. The sweeping movement of the trowel was deliberately used to create a distinctive signature. On the floor, the seamless design of the room was accomplished with Pandomo TerrazzoMicro, an exclusive, monolithic flooring material with the classic terrazzo look. Here too, a pure-white shade was cho-sen, accentuated by the addition of a fine, decorative aggregate grain which was also white. The monochromatic surface gives the floor a sense of high class, while the fine-grained aggregates produce the de-sired calmness and homogeneity. Once installed, the floors were ground and polished until they were smooth and finally impregnated. The result is an entire room that looks as if it had been carved from a single block of stone. A truly unique effect.

One of the highest priorities for the architect in the execution of the surfaces was that in such highly-frequented areas the surfaces must be impact and scratch resistant, and naturally hard-wearing. Here too, the materials specified give a durable and long-lasting solution. Overall, the system convinced the architect, the client and the construction company executing the work in every respect. This was not just in terms of the optical results achieved on such a large surface, but also in practical terms, thanks to the ease and efficiency with which these materials can be installed. Since then, the new City Library has been opened to the public and is proving to be an inspiring centre of learn-ing and culture. The library is designed to be the centrepiece of the future new Europaviertel, and at the same to give it life.