I came across a picture of this building the other day while browsing on Flickr. The caption just read "Cool Building" and there was no location info but since the photo included the plaque on the front it was easily identifiable as the Biblioteka Kombëtare, Republika e Kosovës [English translation] or, in language I can understand, the National & University Library Of Kosovo located in the capital of Kosovo, Prishtina. It looks for all the world like someone took a giant net and draped it over the building; the...
NATIONAL & UNIVERSITY LIBRARY OF KOSOVO
Biblioteka Kombëtare, Prishtina, Republika e Kosovës [Approximate]
No Google Maps "Street View" Available - Not Included In Google Earth Tour
Editorial Note - quotes from the Biblioteka Kombëtare website contained in this article are from the Google translated page and they are unedited; they therefore contain spelling, grammatical and other errors.
... end result is a very striking, extraordinary and unique building. Constructed in 1982 the library was the creation of the highly regarded Croatian architect Andrija Mutnjakovic [English translation]. Mutnjakovic's career highlights include not only the creation of this masterpiece but also serving as the Honorary Director of the Croatian Museum Of Architecture, receiving the 2003 Vladimir Nazor Award from the Croatian Ministry of Culture and authoring several books.
The National and University Library of Kosovo, or NULK, was established in 1944 and was initially located in Prizren. The library relocated after only two years to Prishtina and in 1982 it relocated again to it's current home. The Biblioteka Kombëtare [English translation] website provides a great deal of historical and factual information about the library and the building and notes that the institution is
"the highest library institution in Kosovo. It was established by the Assembly, and is the main purpose of collecting and preserving the intellectual heritage of Kosovo and Kosovo. Its collections are a treasure of precious national heritage, regional and world."
The website goes on to describe the libraries current home in this way:
"NULK has a total of 16,500 square meters. There are 6 floors, of which two floors are below ground and are designed to maintain t smell treasure of knowledge of the people of Kosovo and beyond.
On the floors above are for user reading rooms with 600 seats - two large halls, periodical room, and the reading rooms for scientific workers. Also available to the public for cultural events, educational and scientific is the Great Amphitheatre with 150, and Small Amphitheatre with 75 seats, with a uniform architecture characteristic of the wood work. Besides the amphitheater, and the NULK's foyer is a room that is used for various cultural events. The floor of the Hall is a perfect work of diverse mosaic marble stone. Hall's high ceiling is adorned with the largest dome that has NULK, providing ample natural lighting ......
..... The library has 99 domes. The role and their primary function is to provide natural lighting in reading rooms and other spaces to work in NULK. Their design also offers decoration characteristic of external structure, but also the interior of the Library as a whole. Domes produce lighting effects that light and stored in memory as a journey through the universal sense of national Plisi white appearance of a brain (knowledge)."
Given its location and the recent history associated with the region it is not surprising that the library has been through some turbulent times. During the 1990's Slobodan Miloševic era a large part of the vast store of Albanian literature housed in the library was destroyed. Having said that a not insignificant collection was preserved and the library still houses
"around 2 million units library. Its collections include various materials such as books, magazines, journals, scores, manuscripts and old books and rare gramophone records, maps, photographs, MA PhD work, etc.."
The current collections housed at the library also include over 5,000 fine examples of old and rare books and manuscripts, dating back as far as the 16th century.
During another tumultuous period the building was used as a military HQ during 1999. MSN Travel makes the following observation
"When you build a library that looks like a military base in a potential war zone, then you can't be all that surprised when armed forces take it over as a base once the trouble starts. Such was the fate of architect Andrija Mutnjakovic's 1982 building, which was occupied by the Serbian army, serving as its commando HQ during 1999."
in an article entitled "Are These The World's Ugliest Buildings?". I have to say that I for one would certainly not include the Biblioteka Kombëtare in such a list; in fact just the opposite, I think that while it is strange it is also very cool and actually looks rather attractive. I guess it simply speaks to the assertion I make in this blog's header that architecture ought to be considered an art form and that "Architecture, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder".
I located a tourist video of the building which includes some interesting footage and include it below on the video tab; however be warned that about half way through the video seems to start to concentrate more on, presumably, the wife and then for some reason on a man I can only assume was a local doing some gardening. There is not much footage of the building after this point.