Reykjkavik Central Library

Show, Don’t Tell

May 25, 2021

When launching a competition for not only renovating but also extending a library, the flood of ideas and requirements can become overwhelming. How can you present all these specifications in an appealing, encouraging way? We used various tools to provide both jury and architects with inspiration and clarity.

The capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik, is preparing an international architectural competition to select an architect for the renovation and extension of its central library. Many documents have been prepared in the run-up to this tender. From user consultation to ideas on the positioning of the new entity, which were translated into functional spatial program requirements and to ideas on programming and services. What finally emerged is a pile of Word and Excel documents. This raises the question of whether the documents created an inspiring starting point to spark architects’ enthusiasm.

The City of Reykjavik needs a concrete translation of its ambitions into spatial typological images, without getting in the way of the architects and the architectural competition.

Aat Vos Aat Vos Creative Director at includi

To ask the question is to answer it. So no: It takes more than a stack of documents to inspire architects. The City of Reykjavik needs a concrete translation of its ambitions into spatial typological images, without getting in the way of the architects and the architectural competition. How do we do that?

Mapping what it’s all about

The Relative Positioning Map (RPM) to the rescue. With our RPM, we developed a fun, interactive and inspiring way to transform the most important pointers from the existing Word and Excel information into spatial starting points during several workshops (digital or live). A priority was typology: the language of form. Together we defined essential do’s and don’ts.

The RPM is based upon a set of lenses we developed to manage third places’ spatial needs and their typology. These lenses are shaped by theories of our heroes such as William H. Whyte (urbanist, sociologist, organizational analyst, journalist and people-watcher), Paco Underhill (environmental psychologist), Kevin Lynch (urban planner), Ray Oldenburg (sociologist), B. Joe Pine II (the author who coined the term ‘experience economy’), among others. They combine various insights into the physical aspects of successful third places. Aligning with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we can categorize and order the psychological importance of third places’ physical characteristics.

Let’s get visual

The information for the architecture competition was expanded to include a beautiful and inspiring document. The approach is now more visual; the document very specifically describes the necessary parts of the typology for Reykjavik’s renovated library, in pictures. Participants can thus get an impression of what is, and more importantly what is not, desired. This helps the architects truly understand the building’s most important asset: the people who will soon be walking around in it. And, to top it all off, the jury has a convenient checklist in hand to judge the spatial quality of the submitted designs later on.

Project credits: 

Art Direction Reykjavik Central Library
Client: Reykjavik City Library
Strategy, Consultation, Art-Direction: includi
Team: Eunice Ma en Hélène IJsselstijn. Eunice Ma, Hélène IJsselstijn, Pepijn Vos, Sjoerd Rekker, Aat Vos
Partner: City Department of Environment and Planning
Images: includi