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SUMA's library wins EUmies Award for Emerging Architecture

Words:
Jan-Carlos Kucharek

The outward-facing, sustainable, timber Gabriel García Márquez Library in Barcelona gives Madrid-based SUMA Arquitectura the prize with its transformative community impact

Gabriel García Márquez Library.
Gabriel García Márquez Library. Credit: Jesús Granada

Madrid practice SUMA Arquitectura has been announced winner of the 2024 EUmies Award for Emerging Architecture for its Gabriel García Márquez Library in Barcelona.

SUMA – Guillermo Sevillano and Elena Orte – won the design competition in 2015 and completed the city-funded library in its Eixample district last year. Since opening last autumn, the five-storey, mass timber building has been inundated with local users, and was also voted Best Public Library in the World 2023 by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

Aware that the online world is threatening the idea of a library as a space for civic convening, SUMA wanted to see how its proposal might counter that effect. ‘We were interested in analysing what a library might be in the 21st century and how it could remain a paradigm of public space in the city,’ says Sevillano. As a result the sustainable design challenged the conventional library programme. Here, ground floor reading spaces open out to the street while its ‘ideas forum’, spaces that can be curtained off for privacy, also enjoys adjacencies, so local organisations or clubs can engage with each other. In the basement is a meeting or theatre space and even a local radio station; there are sensory rooms on the first-floor children’s level, and at the top of the light-filled atrium adult spaces have multi-media and ‘concentration’ rooms, terraces and winter gardens. Mass timber floors are supported by large, hybrid timber trusses. 

The triangular form creates novel spatial relationships as you move up and through the building. ‘The connection of the three cores to the trusses is not simple but is designed to facilitate easy movement around the building,’ explains Sevillano. ‘The corollary to the structural complexity is the variation of spaces it offers, creating an ecosystem of social use. Our idea was that anyone could find a space that suits them; perhaps a quiet space in which to read or to join a book club, or to enjoy more sociable entrance areas – even just to talk with a librarian…’

  • Gabriel García Márquez Library.
    Gabriel García Márquez Library. Credit: Jesús Granada
  • Gabriel García Márquez Library.
    Gabriel García Márquez Library. Credit: Jesús Granada
  • Gabriel García Márquez Library.
    Gabriel García Márquez Library. Credit: Jesús Granada
  • Gabriel García Márquez Library.
    Gabriel García Márquez Library. Credit: Jesús Granada
  • Gabriel García Márquez Library.
    Gabriel García Márquez Library. Credit: Jesús Granada
  • Gabriel García Márquez Library.
    Gabriel García Márquez Library. Credit: Jesús Granada
  • Gabriel García Márquez Library.
    Gabriel García Márquez Library. Credit: Jesús Granada
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The EUmies Award judges’ citation states ‘The library acts at the scale of the city, contributing to transformation of the neighbourhood by opening up as new exterior and interior public space. The wooden structure unfolds as a rich sequence of monumental and domestic spaces that welcome neighbours and citizens, providing them with comfortable atmospheres for learning, teamwork and community engagement. With meticulous attention to detail, the authors have thoroughly examined and pushed the library programme to its fullest potential.’

SUMA Arquitectura pipped fellow Iberian practice Branco del Rio to the post, which was shortlisted for its Square & Tourist Office in Piódão, a rural ‘stitching’ project in Portugal. SUMA Arquitectura will receive the award and €30,000 prize on May 14 at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona.

 

  • Entrance level plan
    Entrance level plan Credit: SUMA Arquitectura
  • Basement level plan with conference space
    Basement level plan with conference space Credit: SUMA Arquitectura
  • First floor children's library
    First floor children's library Credit: SUMA Arquitectura
  • Public 'agora' directly accessible from inside by sliding doors.
    Public 'agora' directly accessible from inside by sliding doors. Credit: SUMA Arquitectura
  • Library isometric
    Library isometric Credit: SUMA Arquitectura
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