Page 17 - MODUS NEWS 02
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All photographs by Jan Bitter and renderings by Wiel Arets Architects
The UBU is a library located on the campus of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Comparable to a data recorder, it is more than a place where people can consult books; it is a place where they can work in a concentrated fashion, as well as meet other people without needing any stimulation other than the atmosphere that the building radiates.
The book depots, which seem to float, divide the space into zones that are interconnected by stairs and slopes, composed of black, figured concrete with a partly double-glazed façade onto which a silk-screened figurative pattern has been applied. This feature lets natural light into the building. The glass façade also encloses the car parking area like a smooth skin, thereby making it an integral part of the complex.
Based on the idea that silent communication is important in a building where there is hardly any talking, the atmosphere is determined with an emphasis on creating a sense
of security. That was essential for the choice of a black interior. A light, shiny floor provides enough reflection of natural or artificial light to illuminate some of the 42 million books placed on open shelves, while the long, white tables make it possible to read a book or
to consult electronic information without too much effort. The individual workplace area with full facilities is a key element to the design, and is positioned in such a way that the user’s choice of a workplace also determines the degree of communication with other users.
Absorption versus confrontation, working in a concentrated way versus communication, is the main premise in this library where the infrastructure has more than one function. The route is also programmed by it, since the bar, lounge, reception corner, auditorium, and desks are all fitted with red rubber. Other spaces, such as shops, add an extra dimension to the route, thereby breaking down the mono-functionality of the library.

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