Reading Room in Riga Reimagined
Riga based architecture practice GAISS was invited to reimagine the children’s reading room within the National Library of Latvia.The goal for the refurbishment of the children’s reading room at the National Library of Latvia was to create an environment that encourages children to discover the joy of leafing through a book at a time when digital media has gained dominance. From play areas to windows that seem to encourage to be looked into, walls with books arranged interestingly, pine tree trunks with a hammock tied in between, spaces that seem to invite a child to explore and then suddenly find books to be engrossed in seems to be the design narrative for this reading room. The reading room is suitable for readers of all ages. Everyone has the opportunity to find the perfect reading spot — at a desk, on a couch, in an alcove, in a hammock, in the playhouse, or on top of a hill.The Multidisciplinary approach is a fundamental part of GAISS, formed in 2013, and this approach allows the designers to have a fresh attitude for each task.
The studio has collaborated with engineers, designers, artists, curators, historians, and numerous other professionals to achieve thoroughly informed results for each individual project.This task was approached by thoughtfully positioning playful and engaging elements within the space to support various types of the reading experience, according to the lead designers. Thus, the act of reading is spotlighted as both an emotional and physical process that contributes to all the senses.
The new design features floor to ceiling bookshelves that span the perimeter of the space. This makes the shelves easily accessible and books themselves become the main visual cue of the reading room. Six pine trunks counterpoint the regularity of the shelf grid and support hanging hammocks, that would lure any child to its fold, with a book in hand.
A feeling of spaciousness has been created while offering the possibility to easily transform the space to accommodate various activities.
“Flexibility was another important aspect that the redesign had to address. As the reading room is increasingly more often used to hold public reading sessions and workshops for larger audiences, the central part of the space contains movable furniture units and stacks of plywood cubes that can be rearranged to serve the occasion,” explain the architect.Platforms of various heights and other pieces of “unprogrammed” furniture are scattered throughout so that children have the possibility to find the arrangements that support their needs the best. The space is also accessible for the youngest kids who cannot read yet, as they can climb into the tiny house or find one of the many picture books hidden in secret compartments.“The material palette for the furnishing has been kept to a minimum so the colourful book covers can step to the forefront. Locally manufactured birch plywood surfaces are mixed with brightly coloured elements – a shade of red that corresponds to the existing NLL wayfinding system,” explains Kārlis Melzobs, one of the architects of GAISS.Drawings by artist Rūta Briede take a special place in the interior, confirming illustration as an integral part of the reading experience.
Project name: NLL Children’s Library
Location: Riga, Latvia
Completion Date: 2019
Design: GAISS (Marta Dzene, Arnita Melzoba, Kārlis Melzobs)
Photography: Ansis Starks
Client: Latvian National Library Foundation