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Santa Catarina Library

Florianopolis Architecture Contest, Brazil: Brazilian Architectural Competition – 2nd Prize

19 Apr 2010

Santa Catarina Library Florianopolis

Santa Catarina’s Public Library / Florianopolis –  Brazil

Design by a young group of architects from São Paulo, Brazil

Santa Catarina Public Library

The proposal received 2nd place in a National Competition for the Santa Catarina’s Public Library in Florianopolis, Brazil.

The Santa Catarina Public Library project was shortlisted among 76 teams from different cities in Brazil.

This is the 4th award in competitions in nearly 2 years for this group of architects.

The competition asked for a low cost renovation of a formerly administrative building designed in 1974, adapted later on to be a library.


Among the various buildings of public character that exist in a city, the Santa Catarina Public Library stands out for its democratic and civic potential. Traditionally recognized as the repository of knowledge in a society, in the past libraries lent themselves more to carefully protect a precious collection than to promote the access and dissemination of this knowledge to the public. The distinction between a mere file and a library was therefore unclear, the design of many buildings destined for this use prioritized the protection of the collection in detriment of the inclusion and integration of the users.

The building that now houses the Santa Catarina’s Public Library is characteristic of this ancient idea, originally an administrative building that was later on transformed into a library. With that comes many problems, it’s monotonous space and low height ceiling are inadequate for the spatiality desired for a building of such use and importance, requiring an intervention that delivers spaces that are comfortable , diversified, inviting and that highlight the activity of reading. Our approach was focused on the reconfiguration of this “bureaucratic space” into a true cultural landmark of Santa Catarina, taking advantage of the existing building and adjusting it through interventions concise but no less incisive.

Just like a journey into the world of literature, the discovery of the new library space is made through a sequential series of metal ladders, which make up a path through the different collections and spaces for reading. The path occurs in a ascendant way, symbolizing a transcendent transition that originates in the public access on the ground level and culminates in a new reading environment which occupies the rooftop of the building.

Santa Catarina Public Library Florianopolis Architecture Santa Catarina Public Library Building Santa Catarina Library

Project description
The development of this project begun in the analysis of the existing context and the exploration of alternatives to connect and enhance the interior spaces. Schematically, the process of architectural design was developed as it follows:
1. Actual configuration:
Uniform regurlaly ovelapping slabs, with low height ceiling that configure a monotonous and limited spatiality.
2. Inicial thought:
The search for a unifying vision of the cultural space through openings in the slabs, connecting the various floors.
3. Development of the concept:
A careful subtraction of segments of the slabs in order to break the obvious regularity and maximize the internal space.
4. New spatial perception:
 The sequencial slab voids create the possibility of double height reading environments, while ensuring a visual understanding of the library’s internal space.

The sequence of stairways is articulated through new areas of double height ceilings, obtained through meticulous subtractions of sectors of each floor slab (see structural diagrams). The result is a diagonal axis which allows the visual integration of the entire building from the ground floor access to the last new floor, transforming segregated spaces in continuous spaces. This visual unity now present throughout the building sets the library as a connected, pulsating live organism, giving each section of the library a new sense of spatiality that values the reading activity.

The journey culminates in the new roof terrace occupied with reading areas and covered by a steel red structure that announces the new intervention to those who observe from the city level. Such decisions aimed especially to attract new users and promote their permanence inside the inside the institution. The new library presents itself to the urban environment mediated by its new discrete facade. It consists in a composition of light fabric panels with progressive levels of transparency, allowing light to be filtered into the building with varied intensity, according to the activities in each area.

This new interface suggests a certain aura of mystery, arousing the curiosity of passersby without necessarily fully revealing the interior of the building. Inversely, the inside reader remains protected from the excess of external distractions, while the diffused light that permeates the interior of the building encourages the immersion in the pleasurable activity of reading. During the night, the passage of light through the fabric screen is inverted, coming from inside the building, tranforming the library in a luminous object full of life , whose ethereal aspect only suggests, by the silhouettes designed by people in motion, the activities housed within.

The structural reinforcement project details and the environmental analysis were a major concern during the conceptual process. They can be explained by the presented graphic diagrams.
João Paulo Payar
Matheus M.R. Alves
Rafael Brych
Ricardo Felipe Gonçalves
Alexandre Hepner
Yopanan Rebello (Structural Engineer)
Ricardo Messano (Environmental Design)

Previously we published their Honorable Mention in a National Competition for the Paineiras Hotel Complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:

Hotel Paineiras Complex
Hotel Paineiras Complex

Santa Catarina Public Library Architecture Competition images / information from Rafael Brych 190410

Location: Florianopolis – Brazil

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