New National Technical Library opens in Prague

A “hi-tech living room” for students is how the director of the National Technical Library described the institution’s new building, which was officially opened in Prague on Wednesday. The new library was completed after more than 14 years in the middle of a university campus in the Czech capital. But the modern National Technical Library has more to it that just state-of-the-art technology.

Oh-nine oh-nine oh nine, or September 9, 2009, was the date chosen for presenting the new National Technical Library to the public. Located in the middle of a university campus in the Dejvice district of Prague, the building is shaped like an old-fashioned TV screen, essentially square but also rounded. The glass fronted building, which cost around 2.5 billion crowns, or more than 140 million US dollars, has eight floors – two of them underground – and can hold up to nearly 1,800,000 volumes. More than one third of them will be available in free-access zones equipped with a radio frequency identification system. But the head of the National Technical Library, Martin Svoboda, hopes it will be more than just a place to read books and journals.

“Here on the ground floor, it’s in fact not a library at all. The library begins on the first floor. Here there’s a conference hall, a café, a restaurant – we think it will be very busy. We also have an exhibition hall and a gallery, a bookshop, a computer shop, and a branch of the Prague City Library. In the middle of all this is a kind of a public square so that students can meet up here. There’s a giant message board, and we hope they will be also coming here on romantic dates.”

Unlike the project of the National Library building – the famous ‘blob’ that was never built – the design of the National Technical Library did not cause controversy.

Set in the middle of several technical universities, it in fact won a prize from Prague’s conservationist association for the best placed new building in an existing context. One of the architects who designed the library is Petr Lešek, from Projektil Architekti.

“We really wanted to understand the surroundings, and we wanted to articulate was on the site before. But we also wanted to put something new in it – to match what we knew about the context, and bring new chances and opportunities. And we think that we succeeded. We’re just looking forward to what the librarians and the students will say.”

Petr Lešek also says that one of goals was to build a library that would be, despite its ultra-modern technology, simple and environmentally friendly.

“What we tried to do was to combine architectural aesthetics with a technological approach in some intelligent way. This means that it’s not just a nice building into which someone else put perfect technological support, but it was made together so that both architecture and technology support each other. That’s the reason why we used some really cheap ideas, such as night cooling of the interior – just by opening the windows, the building should cool down at night. You don’t need anything else – just open the windows.”

More details, photos and other information about the new National Technical Library can be found at www.techlib.cz.