The 'home for readers' by Alterstudio Partners inaugurated in Melzo Italy

A 'culture plaza' in a building that reinterprets the traditional building type

by Malcolm Clark
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The new Civic library, designed by Alterstudio Partners to be primarily a “home for readers” rather than for books and a meeting place for all the town's people, was inaugurated on January 18th in Melzo (MI) Italy. The design is the brainchild of Marco Muscogiuri the firm's artistic director. 

Whenever a new library opens my thoughts go to Mecanoo's recently opened £189 million “hat box” in Birmingham UK, especially at a time when traditional book and magazine reading has reached an all time low and magazines and newspapers are forced to close or become digital only. How can such a price (of public money) be justified, however iconic or striking the building may be? Therefore, in spite of the different project dimensions, it's a pleasure to talk about a new state-of-the-art sustainable civic library which cost just £10 million (a third of which came from compensation provided by the company for the outer Milan ring road).

The architectural design carries on the idea of library that Marco Muscogiuri (designer and artistic director of Alterstudio Partners) has theorized over the past decade and has seen concrete application in the MedaTeca (2012): “at a time of peak diffusion of social networks, libraries need to focus on that one thing that Google, Facebook or Amazon do not have and never will have: becoming first of all 'squares of culture', places of social gathering, attractive, open, easy to use, innovative and versatile, where you can meet friends, meet new people, find qualified librarians who welcome and direct you as well as possible according to every information need”.

The rigid planning restrictions of the old town have been respected by creating a building that reinterprets the traditional kind of building in contemporary architecture, with split levels, large windows overlooking the inner courtyards, zinc laminate cladding that embraces the whole building creating roof and façade.

The materials and the design of the flooring emphasize the continuity between inside and outside, making the atrium entrance a covered plaza and the “town's sitting room” where there are the services with the most powerful public impact: reception, information, lending services, new books, thematic sections of greatest interest, exhibitions, news stand, cafeteria.

A large central staircase develops vertically overlooking the internal courtyard through a large window, linking the various split-levels: the Music, Entertainment and Recreation section in the basement, open onto an underground courtyard with walls covered with hanging gardens, and the Kids and Teens section on the first floor, with a purpose-built area for toddlers; the two levels of the open-shelf section (Fiction and Non-Fiction), with many reading places and a study room; a terrace and a multi-purpose room on the top floor.

The energy class A building uses ground water heat pumps that provide the entire structure an efficient and effective air-conditioning with a reduction of 76% of energy consumption for heating and cooling.

    Biblioteca civica di Melzo 13

    Biblioteca civica di Melzo

    Melzo / Italy / 2014

    MedaTeca 18


    Meda / Italy / 2012