Biblioteka Narodowa Kosowa
SUHEJLO, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A building laced with fishing nets. Here is the iconic National Library of Kosovo

The National Library of Kosovo (alb. Biblioteka Kombëtare e Kosovës, BKK), located in Pristina, is the most important library institution in the country. The name given to the library honours Pjetër Bogdani, a prominent Albanian writer and clergyman. The unusual and highly original architecture of the building, erected in the 1980s, has both supporters and opponents around the world.

The National Library of Kosovo was established on 25 November 1944 in Prizren, which at the time served as the capital. In September 1981, the library, then named the University Library of Kosovo, was relocated to the modern facility that is still its headquarters today. Between 1990 and 1999 it came under the control of the Serbian authorities and took the name of Ivo Andricia. The building was then used to house the many refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia who had fled their countries because of the war in Yugoslavia. After the occupation of Kosovo by NATO in June 1999, it was revealed that the Yugoslav army had used the library as a command and control centre. The materials inside were stolen, the furniture in the reading room destroyed and the card catalogue scattered around the basement. Some of the library’s priceless Albanian-language holdings were also destroyed during this period.

Arianit, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Biblioteka Narodowa Kosowa

Under the name of the National Library of Kosovo, it has been operating since 1999, when Kosovo gained autonomy. After the war, there was a great will to rebuild the library buildings and re-establish its services at all levels. This was done with the help of experts from UNESCO, the Council of Europe (CoE) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Various training programmes were set up for this purpose.

quinn.anya, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The library is housed in an unusual building designed by Croatian architect Andrija Mutnjaković. The 16,500-square-metre building, located on Hasan Prishtina Square, consists of a dozen irregularly arranged cubes. The mass itself is already heavy – to make it even heavier, the walls of the building are covered with metal mesh, symbolising fishing nets. However, Andrij Mutjakovic thought to add some lightness – the roof of the library is covered with 99 domes stylised as qeleshe – the traditional Albanian headgear. The lobby of the building is used for various cultural events. Its floor is lined with colourful marble mosaics. The building has six floors, four of which are underground. Inside, there are two amphitheatre halls, one with 150 seats and the other with 75 seats, as well as reading rooms for 600 people and work rooms for researchers.

Biblioteka Narodowa Kosowa
RrezeDonjete, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The appearance of the building evokes mixed feelings and divides audiences into its supporters and opponents. For some, it is an example of magnificent architectural brutalism, while for others it is the ugliest building in the world. Architect Bekim Ramu of the Kosovo Architecture Foundation describes it as unique, pointing out that the building’s style combines Byzantine and Islamic elements and that the domes add lightness. Others, on the other hand, criticise its heavy mass and dominance of the urban space.

Biblioteka Narodowa Kosowa
RrezeDonjete, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The library currently collects books, magazines, maps, atlases and music collections. Its holdings reach 2 million volumes, including around 200,000 book titles. The oldest item in the holdings is a 16th-century copy of Marin Barleti’s ‘Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum principis’. The institution is also digitising its holdings. In accordance with its statutes, the library also organises scientific, cultural and educational events. It publishes its own journal ‘Biblioletra’, as well as bibliographies of Kosovo prints and publications on library science.

Biblioteka Narodowa Kosowa
SUHEJLO, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pjetër Bogdani National Library of Kosovo is a symbol of the country’s culture and national heritage. Its rich collections, diverse functions and controversial architecture make it a unique place on the map of Europe. Despite difficult periods in its history, the library continues its mission to collect, preserve and promote Kosovo’s documentary and literary heritage, becoming an important cultural and educational centre of the region.

Source: trojka.polskieradio.pl, balkanyrudej.pl

Read also: Architecture | Brutalism | Elevation | Concrete | Interesting facts | Travels

Latest content on the site

Beauty is all around you