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The Swapping Bookshelf

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Article by Eleftheria Athanasopoulou
Posted on November 24th, 2012
in Specials , Eleftherios Ambatzis & Irini- Emilia Ioannidou

Imagine a bookshelf where you can go 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no subscription or contribution fees required; with the sole responsibility of giving and taking. An oasis of books, whose resources are managed by its visitors and rely merely upon the community’s social awareness and contribution. Young Greek architects Eleftherios Ambatzis and Irini- Emilia Ioannidou are the masterminds behind the conception and construction of this unconventional approach to the traditional idea of public libraries. With a collection of books of immense cultural and educative value, the Swapping Bookshelf is a modern construction based on traditional bookshelf standards, which not only increases social interaction, but also allows its users the freedom to borrow any number of books for an unrestricted amount of time, this way encouraging them to exchange them with their own personal reading collections. Updated on a daily basis, it functions based on any written material offered by the public.

Unique, contemporary and functional in its form, the bookshelf was designed in such a way so as not to steal the spotlight from its contents and let the books become the centerpiece. Although the idea has been executed in other European countries as well, it had never been implemented by architects, until now. Being positioned in a public space, on a pavement of Kifissia’s Center in Athens, the architects wanted to respect the surrounding area and ensure the library’s durability in external factors, such as vandalism and weather conditions. The basic structure was made of steel, which was then cladded by sandwiched aluminum panels, making the structure robust and strong. The doors of the shelves are made of bulletproof technoglass and not a single sharp edge can be found in the whole construction, this way making it also user-friendly to children. A solar panel roof supplies power to the LED lights, which have been placed individually in every shelf, illuminating the books during the night.

The architects’ second bookshelf has just been presented at the Onassis Cultural Centre and has been designed with minor construction alterations regarding both functionality and form. All fittings were firstly made in veneer wood and this time the external white aluminum panels were CVC-milled, revealing the black aluminum backdrop, with the purpose of resembling the façade of the Onassis building.

The plan behind the Swapping Bookshelf is to create a huge network of reading treasures, all around Greece, with each library designed to blend within its surroundings and background history. A vast cultural and educative grid all around the country inviting its users to experience the power of knowledge and social awareness! What a beautiful idea!