Gunnar Birkerts, National Library of Latvia, Riga

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2015-06-07
  • Publisher: Natl Book Network
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The building of the National Library of Latvia is a landmark of the capital city of Riga, a spatial symbol and architectural icon, created
by one of the 20th century renowned modernists – the Latvian-born American architect Gunnar Birkerts. His metaphorically saturated
and expressionist architecture has established its permanent place in the history of contemporary architecture. The unique creative style
of Birkerts stems from his deep cultural roots in Latvia, his architectural studies in Germany after World War II and the first years of
architectural practice in the USA learning from the Finnish architect Eero Saarinen and the Japanese architect Minoru Yamasaki.

Birkerts was invited to Latvia to design the National Library as early as in 1988. Three years later, Latvia restored its independence
and the formation of a new state delayed accomplishment of Birkerts’ ambitious idea for 25 years. The idea, the design and technology
changed as changed the times becoming a symbol of a new and free state. Thanks to its content and concurrent processes for
reestablishment of the national state the building acquired a symbolic and meaningful name: the »Castle of Light«. In 1999, the idea
for construction of the National Library of Latvia received the official UNESCO patronage and support, the design and construction of
the building have been evaluated by a panel of prominent UNESCO experts.

The pyramidal structure which rises 68 meters high is a place of cognition equipped with state-of-the-art technology 70-0It has
been the most significant investment in cultural infrastructure since the establishment of the Latvian state and is one of the largest cultural
buildings in Northern Europe in the 21st century. The library can serve simultaneously 1,000 visitors. A 400-seat concert
hall/auditorium and transformable meeting rooms of various sizes are suitable venues for conferences, congresses and concerts. Taking
advantage of modern technology, the National Library of Latvia and near-ly 900 other libraries in Latvia are interlinked within the
Network of Light – a single network of digital resources available on the internet throughout the country which was set up with the support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Author Biography

From 1990 to 1996 Janis Dripe taught at the faculty of architecture of Riga Technical University. From 1993 to 1995 he was minister of culture and from 1996 to 2006 the ambassador of Latvia in Sweden. Until recently he was chief architect of the city of Riga.

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