This is a unique space. Warsaw School of Economics library reading room

The reading room of the SGH library in Warsaw is a place made for reading. Plenty of glass, huge skylights in the roof and elegant finishes promote tranquillity. Designed nearly a century ago, the library successfully fulfils its role to this day.

The library is part of the entire campus of the School of Economics. Editor Mateusz Markowski recently wrote about the entire establishment. Archival and contemporary photos of the campus with the main building can be found in his article by clicking HERE. This time we are paying more attention to the library building.

The library building was designed by Jan Witkiewicz Koszczyc. He made the design for an announced competition, in which he won first place. It is thanks to him that the whole campus looks so coherent. Construction of the new bookshop began in mid-1928 and was completed in September 1930.

The design of the heavily glazed building was a breath of modern spirit. The organisation of the interior was diametrically opposed to other libraries, which were already considered functionally obsolete in the 1930s. Most of the large libraries in Poland already had the status of a monument. The SGH Bookstore was to be the most magnificent one.

The main reading room, the professors’ and periodicals’ reading rooms and the teaching rooms were calculated to seat 1,000.

The architect designed that the entire building could accommodate 1,000 people at a time. He designed 400 seats in the general reading room, 100 in the magazine reading room, and 40 special professorial seats for teaching staff. Further work spaces were created in the teaching rooms. The approach to book storage was also revolutionary. The architect emphasised vertical communication instead of horizontal, so small lifts for books appeared in the building. Some were equipped with an electric mechanism and some were manually operated.

The bright reading room is still impressive today. It is a two-storey room almost 10 metres high. The reading room is crowned by three domes that illuminate the interior. The architect designed them to float on twelve pillars. The columns are clad in elegant wood and their carved heads are slightly reminiscent of the art deco style. To prevent the interior from becoming too hot,
architect used a system of triple-layered glass. The right temperature was also achieved thanks to the height – warm air collects just below the ceiling, providing comfort down below.

The library was designed to store up to 750,000 books, but thanks to its efficient organisation it handles many more volumes.

photos: Kamil Białas

Read also: Library | Art Deco | Modernism | Interiors | Detail | whiteMAD on Instagram

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