Project Brief

Design a new modern library for Copenhagen that reads its urban surrounds in a new way


Colin Jacobs


M. Casey Rehm




CONTEXT: the Digital Site

Studying the site is an important step in developing an architectural project. It is conventionally assumed that a project can only be "appropriate" if it accurately reflects and responds to its site. 

There are very specific ideas of  what constitutes context. These include neighboring buildings, the history of the site, traditional styles, existing paths, landscape and vegetation, commercial activities, and so on.

Today, our experience of a site is as much physical as it is digital. In particular, Google Streetview allows us to instantly visit places and visually experience its "flavor" without ever having set foot there.  A contemporary reading of a site needs to incorporate its digital existence as well.

If architecture has to be derived from its context in order to be acceptable, can this practice be perverted to become the most faithful misreading of the site?

blank facade closed off to the street

Deliberate Misreading

The project began by degrading images taken from Google Maps and Streetview into loose fields of black and white. These were projected in three axes to create forms that are porous and figural. Features like building windows became holes that pass through the mass.

Conventional architectural design takes information from the context and - through the skill and preference of the architect - interprets it into architectural mass.

This approach harvests visual data from the site and very literally and directly transforms it into form.

Degraded images taken from Google streetview

Projection in three axes to derive a form


Corruption of the Mass

Colored voxels metastasize across the skin, forming an ornamental crust. The voxel corruption grows like a cancer and penetrates deep into the mass. It re-configures the spaces inside, forming differently-scaled spaces that resemble the those of a city.

As the corruption intrudes further into the interior, they gouge out hollows and split the skin like open wounds. These openings become large windows, filtering in light and connecting the deep interior spaces with the rest of the city.

A Continuous Ground Plane

The ground underneath the library is a public plaza that seamlessly connects the street and the harborside promenade. Derived from shadow projections, the raised steps reveal the hidden interiors of the library.

The library itself frames views of the surrounding city with its arched form, while referencing it materially and spatially. The raised steps continue the boardwalk, drawing it underneath the library, while mirrored inlays reflect the sky and mimic water.