The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was Scandinavian firm Snøhetta’s first major public commission, won in an open competition. Completed in 2002, the 11-storey library, which sits like a vast discus in the city’s historic harbour area, can contain up to 4 million volumes of books and be expanded to up to 8 million by the use of compact storage. In addition to the library facilities, the library also contains other cultural and educational functions including a planetarium, several museums, school for information science and conservation facilities. Characterised by its circular, tilting form, the building spans 160 meters in diameter and reaches up to 32 meters in height, while also diving some 12 meters into the ground. An open plaza and reflecting pool surrounds the building, and a footbridge links the city to the nearby University of Alexandria. Its glistening, angled roof faces northwards out to sea and recalls the ancient Alexandrian lighthouse.
Photography: Gerald Zugman