Located in the historic heart of Copenhagen, the extension of the Royal Library connects some of the city’s oldest, most prominent buildings to the waterfront. With its distinctive cubic shape and sleek black facades, it is commonly known as “The Black Diamond”. In addition to serving as a contemporary library it has acted as a catalyst for the revitalisation of the Copenhagen harbour areas, playing a significant role in integrating these cherished recreational blue spaces into the fabric of the city as we recognise it today.
Since its completion in 1999, the Black Diamond has become an icon for Copenhagen – a prominent, accessible, and public focal point for the life in the city, serving as an informal meeting place for citizens, students, tourists, and other guests alike. The intention for the library extension at this unique site in Copenhagen was to create a place within its context of the city. A building that facilitates public life along the waterfront and acts as a communicator between the city and the horizontal everchanging surface of the water. An architectural landmark pre-empting a new era of libraries and initiating the revitalisation of the harbour.
The design for the Black Diamond broke with the notion of the library as an outdated elitist institution by reintroducing it as more than a storage for books, marking a radical shift from traditional library structure to accommodate a wide range of cultural facilities. Its closed exterior and compact shape signal a sense of significance and solemnity, paying homage to the original library building. However, this impression finds its counterbalance in the transparent ground floor level as well as the light and organically shaped interior throughout the building.
As a relatively modest and newly established architecture studio, the accomplishment of winning 1st prize in an international competition with more than 160 contestants was a defining moment for the Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s practice. The innovative and empathetic approach to the design of the Black Diamond kindled what has since become an extensive portfolio of library designs all over the world.