The University Library of Freiburg has a dual role, serving both as a research library for the university and as a public library for the city. Its function and its architectural image must balance these two roles to provide an interface between the expanding university and the historic urban fabric that surrounds it. The opportunity is to simultaneously rethink public space, creating a platform for Fribourg's cultural life, and to redefine the library as a store of information in multiple formats.
A new ensemble of buildings restores the façade and function of the original 1910 library, and integrates these spaces with an addition that reflects the vitality of the contemporary city. The new building extends the massing and scale of the existing building, folding upon itself to create a new center of gravity within the library. New book stacks are connected to the historic structure by a grand stair that also serves as a casual reading room and public space. The exterior is a skin of translucent insulated glass, which allows natural lighting of the interior while maintaining the privacy of the adjacent monastery. The interior atrium is clad with green stone, typical on building facades throughout Freibourg, to suggest that the continuity of the streetscape—and its streetlife—occurs not on the façade of the library, but within its transparent walls.