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The Bookhouse; the Library of Chance

Part 2 Project 2009
Laura Frances Martin
Queen's University Belfast | UK
Entitled ‘The Bookhouse; the Library of Chance’ this thesis was based on designing a national and lending library for the divided island of Cyprus. The site was located within the ‘Buffer Zone’ at the heart of the capital Nicosia, a ‘no man’s land’ which from 1974 has separated the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Looking towards the eventual reunification of Nicosia, any new or replacement buildings suggested for the Buffer Zone needed to be bi-communal. More significantly any proposal had to take into consideration how preciously this area is regarded by the locals; any replacement to the crumbling ruins needed to be rooted in their culture which many Nicosians feel they have been ‘stripped -off’ owing to the division. A national library for Cyprus therefore needed to be an interpretation of the Greek and Turkish (Muslim) traditions of library building instead of applying the 20th century standard typology, borne out of Western European countries, that a library acts primarily (and often only) as a storehouse for books.
If the history of libraries is examined it can be seen that in Greek and Muslim cultures a library was regarded as being more than simply a storehouse; they were spaces of physical experience designed to stimulate the senses. The ideas borne out of the libraries of the aforementioned cultures helped to inform both the brief and form of the building. In the Bookhouse the expected library components of the book collections, reading and staff areas are still present, known as the Storehouse. However there is also the Workhouse (a scriptorium), the Civichouse (community facilities) and lastly the Bathhouse.
Initial conceptual studies were based on the idea of re-establishing spatial hierarchies within the library. The starting point was the exploration of the grain of Nicosia. A typical Nicosian block can be summarised as having heavy, protective and introverted exteriors of smaller spaces, gradually becoming larger towards the centre of the block. The rhythm of the existing historic grain which had existed on the site was used to inform the layout of the walls thereby creating a sense of familiarity.

Laura Frances Martin

This project is one of twelve schemes proposed for the Buffer Zone of the Walled City of Nicosia, Cyprus. This was part of a group intervention to propose ‘gluing’ projects for this area that has been inaccessible since 1974. The aim of this intervention was to stitch the city once again through schemes that were based on the Nicosia Master Plan planning guidelines, and endeavoured to bring the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities together through architecture, landscape architecture and urban design. The proposed building is an outstanding, sensitive and innovative example of humane architecture that fits extremely well into its complex context.


Mr Alan Jones

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