Halmstad Library

one with nature

Situated in the central part of Halmstad – a city on the West coast of Sweden – the design for Halmstad Library is inspired by its surroundings, the lush green park, and the River Nissan. With the library, Halmstad also gained a new cultural hub and gathering point. With unobstructed views of the river and park scape, it offers a place for recreational activities and contemplation.

In interpreting the local environment, Halmstad Library converts the natural and organic components into a modern and dynamic framework pervaded by light, thus allowing for the different seasons to inform the atmosphere inside. The building both reaches out to its setting and enmeshes itself in the scenic context. Sitting on the banks of the river, water is an integral element, and the park unfolds just beyond the library windows and at the heart of the atrium. This sympathetic response to the surroundings is underscored by the library’s distinctive articulation, which consists of curved contours terminating in a rectilinear form at the river, while at the park end, the building is completed by a dramatically pointed apex.

The exterior consists of large concave facades of slim vertical glazing elements, enabling vistas into the building revealing events hosted by the library and its many collections of books, and, from the inside looking out, vistas across the river and through the boles of the trees.
A sculptural library that is site-responsive and which, in virtue of its architectural expression, provides a landmark for the library, the cultural life of the community, and the town of Halmstad.

Halmstad Library night Libraries
Halmstad, Sweden
8,000 m²
Completed in 2006
The Municipality of Halmstad
1st prize in restricted Nordic competition
Rambøll, Sweden
Nominated for the Kasper Salin award 2006, The Architecture Prize of the Municipality of Halmstad 2006, Awarded the Helgjutet-prize from Swedish concrete industry 2007

Halmstad Library benefits from an idyllic location on the banks of the River Nissan, surrounded by a park with mature trees right in the heart of Halmstad, located on the west coast of Sweden. Allowing nature to inform the design was an instinctive response to the library’s setting.

With its atrium encircling a large existing chestnut tree becoming its fulcrum and the long concave façade with double-height glazing distended between the seemingly floating floor plates — nature, seasons and the city all become part of the library.

The library has two stories at the main entrance, stepping up to three-stories on the river frontage. It extends out over the wide expanse of the river and was conceived as a bridge linking the town that had been divided by the river for hundreds of years. The library links the parkland setting with the river and the city beyond.

A square in front of the library creates a new urban ‘room’ which can host a range of civic activities. In this way the Library establishes a north-south axis north/south, making a strong, legible connection between the historical part of town and the new urban development area.

Halmstad Library site plan close up Libraries
Halmstad Library facade grass Libraries
Halmstad Library Interior Libraries

The building is a large sculpted glass pavilion. Continuous double-height glazing along the length of the concave facade lends the building a distinctive presence, creating a welcoming ambience. Transparency is the keynote - emphasised by the concept of the building as one fluid, open space.

Inside, it is essentially a single open space, flexible and highly legible: an open structure which allows an active interplay between the columns and the trees outside. The double-height glazing of the concave façade creates a welcoming, transparent ambience.

Halmstad Library is designed to be welcoming – the atrium houses an information area, a reception space, search terminals, exhibition displays, a café and stairs to the first floor and the storerooms in the basement. The visitor moves from this active zone to the various sections of the library housing fiction, non-fiction, children’s books etc. There is space and serenity in every direction, with views out over the water, the treetops and the sky beyond.

The palette of materials is deliberately simple: concrete, glass and floors of Nordic larch. The library has a consistent colour scheme of white concrete and light wood. The design pays ‘homage’ to the organic forms that characterise Scandinavian architectural tradition.

Halmstad Library interior3 Libraries
Halmstad Library interior1 Libraries

The library is constructed of few and simple materials: concrete, glass, and Nordic larch flooring that interact effectually with the exterior surroundings.

The base of the building is raised slightly above street level on a forest of columns which echo the tree trunks that encircle the building. The design creates a sense of weightlessness, with the flowing walls suggesting an organic interplay with the natural environment. The grassed roof further reinforces the way in which the building echoes and enhances the site’s leafy setting. Furthermore, the grass is also a sustainable element, reducing UV penetration, and the need for drainage, as well as providing additional insulation.

Halmstad Library elevation south Libraries
5 images
SHL Architects Halmstad Library corner by night
Halmstad Library Facade front long Libraries
Halmstad Library sketch curve Libraries
Halmstad Library groundfloor Libraries
Halmstad Library model4 Libraries
Halmstad Library interior2 Libraries

As a sign of respect for the living world of nature you often see the courtyard enriched with an old tree in the countryside in Sweden. The library has a reference to this tradition being formed around a large chestnut tree which stands in the middle of the circular atrium, at the centre of the building.

Halmstad Library courtyard edit Libraries
Halmstad Library sketch three in one Libraries tif
Sketch of Halmstad Library throughout the seasons