Paris 2017 – In rue Richelieu in the heart of Paris, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France just reopened to the public with over a million books and monumental reading halls that can now be reached thanks to the renovation work of Bruno Gaudin and Virginie Brègal. The massive historical complex known as The Quadrangle has been under renovation for over 25 years an it’s ready to be explored.
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The stratified history and rich nature of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France features an extraordinary juxtaposition of spaces of every kind, from reserve areas and galleries to staircases and rotundas and much more. Behind a stone facade, the site houses the collections and reading rooms of the manuscripts department, the maps and plans branch, the coins, medals and antiques bureau, and the performing arts office.
In in order to gain as much information as possible, the architects completed exhaustive historical and structural studies. “We had to literally break it down into its constituent parts to be able to better rebuild it and to highlight its intrinsic qualities” say the architects to Archipanic.
Installed over the centuries, the Quadrangle counts some some thirty more or less existing staircases connecting a fragmented system od spaces. The studio conceived new vertical distributions as well as horizontal ones, oriented north/south and east/west, that allow a smooth flow of users and an easy access to the collections.
Two entrances offer access to a single lobby: courtyard side, garden side, two beautiful rooms for creating the thresholds for access to the Bibliothèque. The reception lobby is imagined as a transversal space linking the two sides of the Quadrangle, heretofore disjointed, as well as two large reading rooms – The Salle Ovale” (BnF) and the “Salle Labrouste” (INHA) – the ground floor and the piano nobile.
Jean François Lagneau, architect in chief of Monuments Historiques, carried out the renovation of the Salle Labrouste hosting the main reading room. Lagneau restored the room’s original vibrant colors, while ensuring that the space was compliant with modern day building codes and regulations.
The Central Book Reserve is a particularly emblematic example of the site’s stratified history. An alchemy of wood, cast iron and light. Originally built in 1868, before two underground levels were added between 1936 and 1938, the section connected to Salle Labrouste features five upper storeys built in 1959. Metal additions made in the 1930s and 50s had been intricately woven into the original structure according to Current safety regulations.
The Bibliothèque Nationale de France feature 6 reading rooms, some of which are to be completed in 2020. The viennot gallery, which houses the collections of the performing arts, is presented through the glass curtain wall of public circulation, while the gallery des petits-champs has been adapted to serve as a second reading room.
All photos: courtesy of Bruno Gaudin and Virginie Brègal.