Page D1.1 . 19 September 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Legendary Library Resurrected

by Victor A. Khoueiry

There are many legends about the destruction of the great library in Alexandria 2000 years ago, but much less historical fact about the building itself has survived. Three libraries may have coexisted in the ancient city, but scant data remains about their location, layout, holdings, organization, administration, or physical structure.

To revive the idea of that ancient library, the Arab Republic of Egypt and UNESCO set out to build the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina, one of the largest libraries in the world, to house a collection of books and rare manuscripts from the region.

The Norwegian architecture firm Sn°hetta won an international competition and were further awarded contracts for landscape and interior design. They formed a consortium with Hamza Associates of Cairo to provide the detail design and engineering services.

The project, completed in the autumn of 2001, has received considerable notoriety since the initial design in 1989 and continues to be a strong symbol for international cultural awareness.

The New Library

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina neighbors the University of Alexandria Faculty of Arts campus, in Shatby, and overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north. The US$150 million project is designed to accommodate three million volumes.



ArchWeek Image

The Great Hall of the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt, designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Sn°hetta.
Photo: Steven Allan

ArchWeek Image

A scale model of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina by architects Sn°hetta, with the planetarium in the foreground.
Photo: Steven Allan


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