National Library of France Competition

A tour de force architectural in composition resolves an exceptionally complex program.

Meier Partners envisioned this proposal for the new French National Library as a vibrant public space deeply interconnected with the surrounding city. The parti is organized around a monumental reading room facing the Seine, an inviting gathering space which recalls Henri Labrouste’s iconic Bibliothèque Nationale of 1868. The entire library campus was conceived as spatially and visually woven into the urban fabric through a combination of long vistas, which would relate the new library to other Parisian landmarks, and a series of footbridges that would span the river an create a close connection to the Parc de Bercy on the opposite bank.

Following the competition guidelines, the design breaks the library’s overall massing into seven parts: the conical hybrid entrance and exhibition space, a colloquium space and restaurant, a film and music library, a recent acquisitions library, a main reading room, a research library, and an administrative wing. Using the golden section to organize this vast complex into a highly unified composition, Meier Partners emphasized natural light and open, continuous space throughout the design. The administrative areas were conceived as a vertical office tower at one end of the campus, establishing the library as an iconic presence on the city skyline, while the entire book storage and processing facility would be housed in a low-rise podium adjacent to an open public plaza, allowing the public to enter the complex by traveling over and through the collection itself.  

The roof of the monumental reading room was designed was a fully glazed double skin supported by a ten-meter truss tapered into an aero foil section. This roof was conceived not only to function as a dynamic light source, flooding the interior with diffused natural light during the day and glowing from within at night, but as an insulating void that would ensure optimal interior temperatures in the reading room below.