© Hans Werlemann

Très Grande Bibliothèque

OMA received an honorable mention for Très Grande Bibliothèque, a competition to build a new national library in France. The program called for the creation of various smaller libraries contained in one building envelope; including libraries for moving images, recent acquisitions, reference, catalogues and scientific research. The immense amount of information to be stored within these spaces (books, films, digital databases) became the impetus for the overall concept design. The library is imagined as a solid block of information, a dense repository for the past, from which voids are carved to create public spaces – absence floating in memory.

At the moment when the electronics revolution seems about to melt all that is solid- to eliminate all necessity for concentration and physical embodiment – it seems absurd to image the ultimate library. But that was exactly what the French government proposed when it organized a competition for the TGB in the summer of 1989: a colossal building of 250,000m2 on the east side of Paris on a site near the périphérique, facing the Seine.
‘An old sketch for ZKM, suddenly pregnant’ SMLXL. Along with conference centers, restaurants, offices, etc. it would consolidate five separate and autonomous institutions in which the complete production of words and images since 1945 - the Bibliothèque is as much cinema as library- would be contained: a cinémathèque, library for recent acquisitions (magazines, books, videos), a reference library, a library of catalogs, and a scientific research library.
The scheme is based on technological scenarios developed with inventors, system analysts, writers, electronics companies. They all anticipate the utopia of fully integrated information systems to materialize before the opening of the building: books, films, computers will be read on the same magic tablets. The future will spell not the end of the book but a period of new equalities.
The Very Big Library is interpreted as a solid block of information, a repository of all forms of memory – books, laser disks, microfiche, computers, databases. In this block the major as absences of building, voids carved out of the information solid. Floating in memory, they are multiple embryos, each with its own technological placenta.