Bookcase, by Coenen

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

The 100th iconographic object on Eikongraphia is a project that has a secret, somewhat hidden iconography. Already slightly recognizable in the wooden paneling of the front façade, the splendor of the iconography is only revealed piece by piece when strolling through its interior. Like a story, it has suspense. And with never giving itself completely away, there is plenty of room for enigma.

Slowly one discovers that the floor-height wooden boxes echo the bookcases. With less literal iconography than the Beijing Books Building designed by OMA the perimeter of the library is a huge bookcase. Because of its size obviously not displaying books, but framing views of the city, showing pieces of art, and provide places to check out quietly some books or other media.

Opened just two weeks ago, the new Public Library of Amsterdam is ‘stormed’ by the public that anticipated the opening of this designed-to-be-a-monument building. It is the first building of a new development right next to the central station called ‘Easterdockisland’, Oosterdokseiland. Within the masterplan from Erick van Egeraat, Jo Coenen has designed this library building.

Having published once an article called ‘Jo Coenen, you are an ass’, I cannot deny I am not a fan of the work of Jo Coenen. His latest design did not change that, but although I don’t agree with his architecture, it doesn’t mean this library is a marvelous piece of architecture. This is joy.

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

Being a more traditional architect Jo Coenen still sketches his designs with pencils. Quite different from the foam-model approach that by now a lot of practices use in the wake of OMA. When walking through the library it struck me that one can actually feel these drawn lines in the spaces Coenen designs. There are a lot of (nearly) parallel lines, and the whole building is a collage of architectural ‘moments’ like tribunes, stairs, voids, atriums, arena’s, etcetera. The whole building becomes a fair of ‘beautiful architecture’. But because all the show is nicely distributed throughout the building, one never feel overpowered by the architectural drama. Every floor is different, every corner is different. In the end it feels like an ancient palace with all these wonderful rooms that can be discovered. Or like Hogwarts.

Beyond the style of the building, more important is the sense of luxury that everything breathes. As a citizen I suppose some people feel is a bit ‘too much’, as it is all paid by their taxes.

It starts with the natural stone façade-cladding, and the monstrous wooden ‘frames’. This is sustainability as Aldo Rossi meant it: just being indestructible.

Then there are the two voids that cut through the floors. Wasn’t one enough? The void on the side reveals the ‘bookcase’ idea, the void in the center provides views between floors, and exhibits one of the most amazing assets of the building: the lighted stairs.

Fuck sustainability, just light up the escalators, all the way. Moving up or down here becomes almost psychedelic. In its esthetics it also felt really retro to me, very seventies. It is the sci-fi blank lighting of films like ‘2001, a space odyssey’, of Stanley Kubrick. Or even more so: ‘THX 1138’, of George Lucas.

Architecture theorist K. Michael Hays noted that the architecture of Aldo Rossi it its striving for pure typologies in the end resulted in an architecture that was haunted. The escalators of the new library of Jo Coenen feel so haunted it becomes cool.

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij) 

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij) 

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
 

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
 

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
 

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
 

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
 

Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
Jo Coenen & Co - Public Library Amsterdam
(Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

The project is added to the Architects and Representation pages.


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