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Public Library and Reading Park

MartÍn Lejarraga

Public Library and Reading Park
By Carmen Espegel -

The project is a deliberate challenge to today’s outlying urban environments, an outspoken plea for architecture to counter the urban sprawl of so many Spanish cities in the 21st century.
In a period of grandiose architectural gestures set in drab surrounds - new, tightly-packed warrens for outlying dormitory areas - Martín Lejarraga has responded with a library building that projects no image and deliberately seeks self-effacement. For the municipal library of Torre-Pacheco is the opposite of a statement building. It does its best to camouflage itself under a city park designed for outdoor games, community life, and reading.
The library building lies in a hollow in the park’s central square, its sloping walls taking visitors down towards the ‘font of knowledge’. The architect has created a “crater of ideas”, a subterranean architecture that ecologically exploits underground thermal inertia and the stack effect of rising hot air to offset the intense summer heat.
Grounded in the concept that study and play are both forms of learning, the library-park heightens sensory and visual stimuli. It also asserts that a public library is not just a public service but also a democratic space for community exchange, a source of cultural input for users and their environment.
“The child is the father of the man” affirmed Maria Montessori; character, moral rectitude and inner strength are forged from early childhood. Accordingly, the Torre-Pacheco library puts the emphasis on children. Not just in the park with its swings, skateboarding ramps, playground and greenhouses but also in the position given to the children’s library at the centre of the atrium and the way the space opens out to greet the newcomer. Everything underlines the idea that educating is not just imparting knowledge but helping a child to develop innate potential.
The library’s most striking feature is as the antithesis of the traditional concept of the library building as public...

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