The LocHal is the new public library for the City of Tilburg. A former locomotive hangar has been transformed into a public meeting place that turns ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ into a vibrant mixed-use district.
The LocHal redefines the library typology. It has already been coined ‘the next big thing in public libraries’ by experts. While keeping traditional ‘book consumer’ facilities, the new library also provides ample opportunity for the creation of new knowledge. The growing importance of ‘Curatorship’ is facilitated by the architecture. The interaction with experts and other visitors offers a deeper, richer way to acquire knowledge and information. That’s why the building acts as a covered public space, housing amenities shared by the library, arts organisations and co-working facilities. In addition to areas for lectures and public events, the building has a number of ‘labs’ where visitors can learn new skills.
The architecture is a reinterpretation of the original building, dating from 1932. The main structure determines the rhythm and language of the new architecture. Perhaps the most conspicuous feature of the building is its sheer size. With a footprint of 90 x 60 meters and a height of 15 metres, it is both imposing and inviting. The entrance hall takes on the form of a covered city square with large reading tables (doubling as podia), an exhibition area and a coffee kiosk. The space folds up into broad steps which can be used by individuals or as event seating for over one thousand spectators.
The spaciousness is strengthened by diagonal sightlines across the interior, enabled by smart engineering; the library capitalizes the existing structure, thereby greatly minimizing the amount of new structural elements. An ingenious system of climate zones preserves the openness of the building; heating visitors in key contact zones and not entire spaces. It was this mentality that made it possible to preserve the LocHal building as one large usable volume, rather than inserting closed volumes or replacing it altogether.
From the entrance hall, the landscape of stairs leads visitors up towards the peripheral galleries which allows one to browse books or retreat into one of the quieter reading areas. Higher up, the filtered rooflight and the refined details of the structure creates a more ephemeral atmosphere. A large balcony offers panoramic views over the city.
Six grand textile screens enable flexible separation of areas and improves acoustics. These screens, with a surface area of 4125 m2, can be repositioned in numerous configurations. They can, for example, be moved to separate the co-working area from the higher library floors, or across one of the staircases to create a small, semi-private auditorium; complete with suitable acoustics and lighting. Together with the black steel columns and concrete floors they enrich the existing spatial system. The materials reveal their characteristic textures when viewed at close hand. During the day, abundant daylight creates intricate shadow patterns. After dark, the building is turned ‘inside out’, with the interior becoming an inviting beacon in the city.
Civic is an office for public architecture. We design libraries, bridges, cultural buildings, public fora, squares, educational buildings, housing and stations. Civic designs generous, powerful and atmospherically architecture standing the test of time.
To us, architecture is not an autonomous discipline but a public one. In conceiving and building architecture, we anticipate the spatial but also social, cultural, economic and ecological context.
Civic gazes back in time and into the future. We study the evolution of building types and their context and experiment with its possibilities. We take great care in the development of materials and their aging process.
Research plays a defining role in our process. In every phase we develop different options.For experimental techniques we build models and mock-ups to test its functionality and spatial experience.
Civic consists of 10 architects and is directed by four partners.