University of Cyprus Library
An artificial hill, added to the natural terrain on the northeastern side of the University campus in Nicosia, magically completes the landscape created by Aronas hill and Kalogeros river, appearing to the unsuspecting onlooker as if it had always been there.
Its “bowels” shelter the Information Center and the Library of the University of Cyprus, bearing the name of Stelios Ioannou, by virtue of the substantial donation by his widow, Ellie, due to which construction was launched, realizing a dream of many years.
The university complex is not only a vessel of knowledge and innovation, but also an architectural gem, signed by the award-winning Jean Nouvel. The beauty of nature was the source of inspiration for the French master, honored with the Pritzker Prize in 2008 – the global architectural counterpart of the Oscar Award, for his Agbar Tower in Barcelona, which broke new ground in the design of sustainable buildings.
In the case of the Library, the internationally renowned architect managed to camouflage a 15.700m² complex, developing in five levels, out of which two are underground. The other three are sheltered inside the 40m-wide artificial hill, covered in a membrane in an abstract composition, dominated by natural colors. It is transparent to allow natural light to penetrate indoor spaces, but it is also equipped with special solar protection systems, enhancing its bioclimatic design.
A valuable addition to this function of the dome is the Heliostate, a singular construction comprising a 24m-tall, 5m-thick cone. Its surface is covered in louvers, colleting sunlight from outside to diffuse as far as the basement.
The results of this outstanding creation stand out most prominently at the reading room, located on the ground floor: 31 glass cubes, true oases for collective study, develop along the perimeter of the internal atrium.
“It is an exceptional building” states Yiorgis Yerolymbos, in his dual feature of architect and specialized photographer. “It is superior to what is recorded on film” he remarks and applauds Jean Nouvel’s choice to get off the beaten track -the planted roof- creating an artificial enclosure that blends into its surroundings. He further adds an equally important parameter: The Library is already a benchmark for the young generation of Cyprus and the reading room is always full. His statement confirms Borges, who begins his ingenious novel entitled “Babel’s Library” with the paradox phrase “The universe, which others call the Library”.
In the case of Cyprus, it is an Ark of knowledge, accommodating a collection of 600.000 volumes, 40.000 digital issues and another 10.000 pieces of audiovisual media, covering the entire range of scientific knowledge. On its shelves lie about a million books and magazines.
The interior spaces of the complex are equally interesting: by virtue of the love of the Ioannou family for art, they feature important works testifying to the long history of Cyprus, as well as contemporary artists from the island.