Deusto University

UNIVERSITY OF DEUSTO LIBRARY

Between tradition and avant-garde. The “Doric” glass block personalises The University of Deusto Library in Bilbao.

Made by Raphael Moneo. 

Inspired by the ancient Greek columns of the same name and designed by Rafael Moneo to seamlessly integrate the library at the University of Deusto (Spain) with the existing environment, the 30×30 Doric block is the first three-dimensional glass block, and perfectly combines classical and modern styles.

Conceived to house a genuine treasure—800,000 volumes over 60,000 of which belong to funds from antiquity printed between 1550 and 1830—the library lies in one of the “hottest” European areas from an architectural point of view. It is situated in the new urban park located on the left bank of the “Nervi” river estuary in Bilbao, within the university area of Deusto and near the famous Guggenheim museum by US architect Frank O. Gehry.

Two important pre-existing requirements that architect Rafael Moneo inevitably had to take into account: the new building was not to compete with the important role that the Guggenheim had acquired, and it was to manifest its public role and establish harmonious continuity with the university while distinguishing itself as an entity in its own right, with its own life in the park.

The idea that guided the architect was to play on the varying perceptions of the glass block to create an architectural structure visible from a far as a monolithic, monochrome, neutral building to soften the brightness of the titanium Guggenheim; while characterized up close by its complex textures and nuances to give it a strong aesthetic identity. The surface of the Doric block—as the new glass block has been called—is enlivened by interplaying grooves and reliefs that stick out about 20mm; the first time a tridimensional decor in relief was created on the glass block surface. This innovation gives new possibilities to use of the glass block in “sculptural” applications thanks to its charm and versatility, the complex reflections created, and the effect of a moving and multi-faceted façade designed by the architect for his building.

The result is even more alluring at night, when the Guggenheim is only present through the fissures, and the library, illuminated from the interior, is transformed into a lighthouse, a translucent presence that pervades the entire area.

The interior architecture of the library was developed around the light and view of the city. The reading rooms located on the ground floor and stories above, offer a privileged view of the Guggenheim and the river. The south façade on the other hand, has been designed without windows to contain storerooms at each level.
Doric glass blocks cover three quarters of the building and have become the main distinctive identity of the architectural structure.

Doric

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