I valori che l’uomo porta in sé sono anche i valori essenziali che l’architettura deve testimoniare.
‘The quality and rarity of the collection of written documents at the Martin Bodmer Foundation, some of them unique, make it an extraordinary cultural heritage.
The library is in Cologny, near Geneva, on land belonging to the vast estate purchased by its founder. It occupies two classical-looking and rather composite buildings.
The planned extension of the buildings consisted in creating a new exhibition space and service areas to display the precious documents to a still wider public.
It was designed as a two-storey hypogenic building standing between the two existing buildings and connected to them at basement level. The entrance to this new space is from the garden, through a sunken courtyard that faces the lakeside. It is contiguous with the wall that separates it from the road leading to the village.
The exceptional nature of the documents in the collection prompted the idea of designing the exhibition space as a buried casket, with nothing above ground-level except five glass parallelepiped structures on square bases, about 3.5 metres high, and aligned with the axis of the entrance like a set of perspective screens that draw the visitor’s attention to the lake.
The glass structures that emerge above ground level are used as lanterns to bring natural light into the underground exhibition spaces. The fact that they are transparent and have a bold geometric shape has the effect of modifying the way we perceive the space outside the entrance, and thus unexpectedly creates conditions that invite us to read the landscape differently. At the same time they discreetly hint at the underground presence of the exhibition spaces.
The precious nature of the documents on display means that they require special attention: the display cabinets are made of crude iron and armoured glass. This makes them look strong and simple, like a jewel case. The crude metal of the compartments and the articulated supports contrasts with the fine lightness of the books on display: the container and the contents enhance and enrich one another.’