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Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Alexandria, Egypt
1989
Competition

Collaborative effort of Nezar AlSayyad and Mark Mack of Mack Architects, Santa Monica

Site

The competition site is believed to be the site of the Old Bibliotheca Alexandrina and is encompassed by the University campus to the south, the Mediterranean to the north and other institutional buildings to the east and west.

Program

The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina program included reading rooms, storage facilities, a planetarium, a children’s library, an administrative section, an institute for library studies and connecting facilities to the neighboring University of Alexandria campus. The competition brief called for respecting the water front corniche and a response to the linear urban context.

Vision

Three important concepts guided the design of this library. First, the library is a synthesis of Alexandria’s past recognizing the ancient Egyptian and the Arab Muslim component of the city’s history in addition to its Hellenistic origin. Second, the library responds to Alexandria’s present by incorporating aspects of popular culture including street booksellers and public poetry reading, not originally part of the program. Third, the new library recreates the ancient Bibliotheca in spirit rather than in form. The general form of the building was generated in relation to the two significant orientations: the functional axis towards the University gate, and the site axis towards the existing conference center. Building on several Islamic and Hellenistic references, the new library like its predecessor is formed by the interaction of various cultures.

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