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BIOTEKA. Green library in Lublin

Dobrawa Bies
22 of April '21
Technical data
Investor: Hieronim Łopaciński Municipal Public Library in Lublin.
Location: Poland, intersection of Al. Racławickich and Sowińskiego Street, Lublin
Studio: GK-Atelier
Architects: Grzegorz Kłoda
Area: 453 m²
Photos: Piotr Arnoldes


  • design
  • implementation


Since January 2021, BIOTEKA - a new branch of the Municipal Public Library- has been operating in Lublin. It is not an ordinary library, but a place full of greenery and natural materials, created in accordance with the idea of sustainable development, encouraging eco-friendly initiatives. A flower shop also operates there. BIOTEKA was designed by architect Grzegorz Kloda, founder of GK-Atelier, who based the entire project on an analysis of the needs of users and librarians.

Bioteka, recepcja

The main materials used for the interiors are wood, concrete and lots of plants

photo: Piotr Arnoldes

The designers' intention was for BOTEKA to be a contemporary pharmacy for the spirit. Crossing its doors, we find ourselves in a small art gallery. It is a space prepared for the presentation of temporary exhibitions. The walls are covered with moss and plaster in various shades of gray imitating architectural concrete. There are rectangular pots here, and on the floor there are illuminated cubbies that can serve as pedestals as well as seats. The ceiling throughout the library has an industrial character with visible technical infrastructure. To unify, all equipment, cables, pipes, etc. were painted in matte black, which enhances the plants distributed throughout the library space. The light fixtures are also industrial, austere and sparing in form. Noteworthy is the gray microcement floor, on which graphics have been placed in various rooms. The walls are mostly finished with plaster imitating architectural concrete and tan wood. The bookcases are kept in light wood tones as are the blinds.

Rzut biblioteki
w Lublinie

BIOTEKA has an area of 453 square meters

© GK-Atelier

plant swap

From the gallery, we move to a relaxation area with a huge sofa where we can browse the current press in peace. In the same zone, against a moss wall, there is an inconspicuous plant rack with a special meaning. This is a Plant Swap, a twin idea of bookcrossing, only in this case, those interested will exchange plants.

The team (of librarians), wanted to customize activities and offerings that would correspond with the architectural assumptions [...]. We decided to highlight the fact that greenery is not indifferent to us. All the living plants in the library were obtained socially - they come from the residents of Lublin and other librarians from the city's libraries. Our activities also fall into the area of environmental and plant education. We want to nurture the bio zone and show how important it is for all of us. Currently, users can exchange plants. Flower shop is one area of our activities. We hope that more will soon follow," says Monika Schmeichel-Zarzeczna, manager of BIOTEKA.

 Mapa Lublina na
podłodze BIOTEKI w strefie nowości

A map of Lublin on the floor in the novelty area

photo: Piotr Arnoldes

a library full of plants

Next we pass the reception counter in the shape of a semicircle, then the main hall with space for organizing various events. Noteworthy is the unusual furniture - a combination of a bed and a bookcase decorated with garland, or a book chair. Next to it is the children's room, lined with soft carpeting and with animal-shaped poufs. Suspended among the greenery is a projector that will allow multimedia activities for the youngest. Next to this room, an audio book area is incorporated, as well as recessed seating for listening to them. We move to the rest of the library by walking through the exhibition corridor, adapted for presenting temporary exhibitions. It is crowned by an illuminated water wall - a hydro wall, emitting a soothing hum. We also pass a room designed for board games, small group activities and bibliotherapy. The space has been soundproofed with colorful panels, which guarantees peace and quiet for the activities conducted there. The last room is a multimedia room with computer stations adapted for people with disabilities. The entire library is free of architectural barriers for wheelchair users.

Girlandy zwisają
z sufitu w bibliotece

Plants even hang from the ceiling

Photo: Piotr Arnoldes

We are probably the only studio in Poland that has created an internal library design system based on analysis of user needs and on information collected directly from librarians at meetings we organize with the library community. The elements that are always in the scope of our library designs are the logo and the name. I believe that the name is like a name, and the logo like the face of such a library, making local communities more willing and easy to identify with such a place. The individual character given through the logo and name makes it stand out from the dozens of numbered branches, and brings together communities that feel a greater bond, explains architect Grzegorz Kloda.

For now, due to the pandemic, the city's residents can only use its extensive collection - 18,000 books, 9,000 audiobooks, 7,000 movies and music albums. When the restrictions are lifted, BIOTEKA will also become a meeting point and cultural and educational events, for which its interior has been designed.

BIOTEKA, przestrzeń

space for temporary exhibitions

Photo: Piotr Arnoldes

Dobrawa Bies: Please tell us about your inspiration and design work. What materials did you use?

Grzegorz Kłoda: BIOTEKA was inspired by the revitalization of the neighboring Saxon Garden. We decided that the interiors of the newly designed library would be a natural continuation of it, and the materials we would use would be wood, concrete (contemporary stone) and large amounts of greenery. We were very keen for the project to be created in the spirit of the idea of sustainability, and then for the library to promote this idea to its users. The premises itself also has an interesting history, in the 1960s Fafik was established there, and then the Slupsk Inn, which over several decades of operation gained cult status. There probably isn't a resident of Lublin who wouldn't associate it, at least by name. After the closing of the inn, the premises stood empty for many years. There were more and more new ideas for development, and public expectations grew....

Wnętrze bioteki

The architects wanted the project to be created within the idea of sustainable development

photo: Piotr Arnoldes

Dobrawa Bies: What was the biggest design challenge during the creation of BIOTEKA?

Grzegorz Kłoda: The biggest challenge was the aforementioned public pressure. There were regular articles in the media causing speculation about what could, or should, be built there. To be honest, at first I was even apprehensive about the project, because I knew it would be exposed to enormous criticism, but once we started designing BIOTEKA, we knew that something special had to be built in such a place. We placed great emphasis on making the library functional, modern, and providing opportunities for creative librarians to use its space in a variety of ways.

Rośliny są wszędzie
w bibliotece

Plants are present in every corner of the library

Photo: Piotr Arnoldes

Dobrawa Bies: Plants in interiors are an increasingly popular and healthy trend. However, in a place like a library, where proper dryness of air is required (so as not to damage the collection), is it safe to introduce so much greenery?

Grzegorz Kłoda: As for the vegetation, it is definitely the result of inspiration, not trends or fashion. It was selected in such a way that it stands up well to the conditions in the library, and we used artificial greenery in the most sensitive areas. A huge part of the plants came directly from the residents of Lublin, from the collection that librarians organized. In this way, the local community made its contribution to the creation of the library.

Dobrawa Bies: Thank you for the interview.

interviewed: Dobrawa Bies

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