Invited as one of five pre-selected architect-led teams, BIG was awarded first prize in an open international design competition that included 19 entrants, among others Lord Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid.
The new National Library, named after the first President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, encompasses an estimated 33,000 square meters2. The winning proposal was chosen by the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, K. Masimov, together with Astana’s akim I.Tasmagambetov and a council of architects. The design was hailed by the judges as being both modern and rational and anchored in a classical vocabulary of traditional libraries. The circular organization of the archive at its inner core combines the clarity of a linear organization with the convenience of an infinite loop.
"The design of the National Library combines four universal archetypes across space and time into a new national symbol: the circle, the rotunda, the arch, and the yurt are merged into the form of a Möbius strip," said Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of the Astana National Library. "The clarity of the circle, the courtyard of the rotunda, the gateway of the arch, and the soft silhouette of the yurt are combined to create a new national monument appearing local and universal, contemporary and timeless, unique and archetypal at the same time."
The two interlocking structures—the perfect circle and the public spiral—create a building that transforms from a horizontal organization, where library museum and support functions are placed next to each other, to a vertical organization, where they are stacked on top of each other through a diagonal organization combining vertical hierarchy, horizontal connectivity, and diagonal view lines. By wrapping the transforming composition of spaces with a continuous skin, the architects create a Möbius strip volume where the facades move from inside to outside and back again.
The archive is organized as a circular loop of knowledge, surrounded by light and air on both sides. At the heart of the building will be a domed courtyard. The simplicity of the infinite circle allows for a crystal-clear and intuitive orientation in the vast and growing collection that will populate the shelves of the library.