Enlargement and renovation of Montbau Library

Title: Enlargement and renovation of Montbau Library
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Office: OliverasBoix Arquitectes
Authors: Nuria Oliveras Boix, Jordi Oliveras Boix
Category: Collective Places
Video: Marc Capdevila
Photos: José Hevia

The library is located in the Montbau housing estate, Barcelona. Founded in the 80s by the neighbours themselves, it occupied two of three former school buildings from the 50's. The passage of time and successive maintenance programmes, had considerably deteriorated the building.
The project started with two options: demolition or renovation. Despite its dubious heritage claims, from the outset we recognised a sentimental value in the site.
The existing library has been restored and enlarged through the addition of the third unused shed and the construction of a new steel and glass body. The old concrete structure has been rehabilitated and the original appearance of the building recovered. The main access was moved and a total redistribution of the different areas was carried out. Inside, the use of colour and materials returns us to a certain atmosphere typical of Nordic school types, while the new glass partitions allow visual continuity between spaces. The building was also brought up to date on energetic aspects.
The intervention on the courtyards and the new access garden provides new transparency and encourages these spaces to be used for reading and other outdoor activities, greatly improving the relationship of the library with the neighbourhood.


Libraries are probably one of the oldest collective spaces that exist: a building where books are kept. The collectivization of this space has been progressive, from the first libraries for restricted use of certain communities (convents, universities …) to the current ones of free access for all citizens. It is during the twentieth century when coinciding with mass literacy, libraries become emblematic spaces that symbolize universal access to culture and knowledge.
Montbau Library represents this paradigm in a very special way by having its origin in a popular library founded by the neighborhood. In this sense it represents the collective space very clearly not only from use but from the initiative of its creation.
At present, the role of libraries is changing deeply. Internet and the digital world have transformed the media and the way of access to the knowledge, which is undergoing a progressive dematerialization. Libraries are losing their function of collective book storage to become free access spaces to the digital world, the greatest exponent of globalization.
In contrast with this predominantly collective nature of libraries, most of the activities that are carried out in them as reading, consulting, studying or writing are fully individual. Ensuring a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere conducive to concentration and silence where the user feel at ease is essential. In the Library of Montbau it has been searched to recreate a domestic feeling through the use of color, materials and the choice of furniture. The goal: to feel at home.