BIG: National Library, Kazakhstan


[click images for larger view]

We can always count on the ninjas over at BIG to never hold back.

BIG [The Bjarke Ingels Group] has won a limited invitation international competition to design Kazakhstan’s new National Library in the nation’s capital, Astana. Slated to encompass an estimated 30,000 square meters, BIG’s proposal was selected by a jury including the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan and a panel of architects.

Much like some other projects we’ve seen proposed for the country, Kazakhstan is once again going ‘all-out’ – selecting a proposal whose form is based on the Mobius strip, and whose design is dope and equally outlandish. The design will integrate some public/civic functions within the library – surrounding a ‘continuous loop’ of stacks that spirals through the Mobius strip shape. The form will be simplified, internally, into stacking and stepping volumes that are then wrapped in a facade treatment that will give the library its twisting shape – creating, at the same time, what look to be some interesting interior public/open spaces.


Part of the project’s purpose is to serve as a representation of Kazakhstan’s growth, and the future of the country as a major influence in Central Asia. This eye-popping and I’m sure to be iconic design will therefore serve both as a cultural institution within Kazakhstan itself, and as a cultural and economic symbol of Kazakhstan internationally.


The following quoted text is the press release, from BIG:

The design of the National Library combines four universal archetypes across space and time into a new national symbol: the circle, the rotunda, the arch and the yurt are merged into the form of a Moebius strip. The clarity of the circle, the courtyard of the rotunda, the gateway of the arch and the soft silhouette of the yurt are combined to create a new national monument appearing local and universal, contemporary and timeless, unique and archetypal at the same time.

~ Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner on the Astana National Library 2009


Nation Building

Being one of the future cornerstones of Kazakh nation building, and a leading institution representing the Kazakh national identity, designing the library went beyond a mere architectural challenge. The new National Library in Astana, Kazakhstan’s new capital since 1997, shall not only accumulate history but also provide a foundation for new futures for the nation and its new capital. It will serve as an intellectual, multifunctional and cultural center, with a primary goal of reflecting the establishment and development of a sovereign Kazakhstan, its political history, and the Head of the State’s activities and role in the development of the country.


The National Library will be the place where the citizens of Astana, the people of Kazakhstan as well as international visitors can come to explore the country’s history, its diverse cultures, its new capital and its first president. The Library will accommodate and communicate with all segments of the population: civil servants, politicians, researchers, students, museum historians and staff. The Library is conceived as a symbiosis of urbanity and nature. Like Astana, which is located in the heart of the Kazakh mainland, it will be integrated into the heart of a re-created Kazakh landscape. The park around the library is designed like a living library of trees, plants, minerals and rocks allowing visitors to experience a cross section of Kazakhstan’s natural landscape, and personally experience the capital’s transition across the country from Almaty to Astana.


What is a library but an efficient archive of books and a path for the public to reach them.

~ Thomas Christoffersen, the Project Leader on the National Library

In the library they will be able to study the history of the Kazakh culture and language present in the massive collection of books, magazines, film and other media. The archive is organized as a circular loop of knowledge, surrounded by light and air on both sides. On the periphery a 360 degree panorama of Astana – at the heart of the building a contemplative courtyard domed by the heavenly light blue of the celestial vault. The simplicity and perfection of the infinite circle allows for a crystal clear and intuitive orientation in the vast and growing collection that will populate the shelves of the National Library. The ideal addition to the perfect circle will be a series of public programs that simultaneously wraps the library on the outside as well as the inside, above as well as below. Twisting the public program into a continuous spiraling path tracing the library on all sides, creates an architectural organization that combines the virtues of all 4 complimenting models. Like a Mobius strip, the public programs move seamlessly from the inside to the outside and from ground to the sky providing spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and growing city skyline.


Mobius Strip

The 2 interlocking structures: the perfect circle and the public spiral, create a building that transforms from a horizontal organization where library museum and support functions are placed next to each other, to a vertical organization where they are stacked on top of each other through a diagonal organization combining vertical hierarchy, horizontal connectivity and diagonal view lines. By wrapping the transforming composition of spaces with a continuous skin we create a Mobius strip volume where the facades move from inside to outside and back again.

The envelope of The National Library transcends the traditional architectural categories such as wall and roof. Like a yurt the wall becomes the roof, which becomes floor, which becomes the wall again.

~ Thomas Christoffersen, the Project Leader on the National Library

::click images for larger view – additional images at AMNP’s flickr page::

::all images, info + quoted text courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group – AMNP thanks to our ninja Kai-Uwe::

[note: Does this mean that the ‘architecture of excess’ isn’t dead? Because this project is CRAZY.]

Posted: August 25th, 2009
at 5:42pm by orangemenace

Tagged with , , , , ,

Categories: architecture,featured ninjas,competitions,library

Comments: 3 comments


3 Responses to 'BIG: National Library, Kazakhstan'

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  1. […] desde BIG: National Library, Kazakhstan | AMNP. […]


  2. Jeez, a few “Green Shoots” sightings and glad tidings from the Fed, Wall St. and Government and we’re back to Starchitecture….

    For all the infinite fascination, do architects from BvB to BIG really know the true meaning and concept of the Mobius Strip????

    I love “Goedel Escher Bach” as much as the next nerd/emo-artist BUT fascination as architecture is simply vanity, not to mention these buildings are so NOT Mobius S. in reality.

    Don’t architects ask themselves how does this form make a better Library/Museum/School/Theater, etc.??

    Traditional professional notions – greater functional capaability, flexibility, spatial quality, material beauty, structural frugality, etc. – are just too conventional, not special enough, lacking in star power, not enough of an icon, boring, so not cutting edge!

    So much better to make wastrel white elephants that evoke hilarious formal metaphors…sorry for the rant…:(

    Stupidity is just not dope.


    26 Aug 09 at 4:18 am


  3. Incidentally, this building isn’t a Mobius Strip, or even a Kleinsche Flache, purportedly its 3-D manifestation, but a NORMAL good ole Spiral/Helix. It’s frustrating how architects feel they have to dig up scientific notions and concepts they barely understand to bolster their cred, to the amusement of the REAL scientific communities.


    26 Aug 09 at 4:56 am



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