The Labin City library is housed in the above ground industrial spaces of Pijacala, a former Labin coal mine. The local mine and the mining industry itself were shut down during the late 1980s, but the above ground industrial buildings were protected as valuable examples of industrial heritage.
The New Concept
The concept of housing library in an abandoned industrial space follows the trend of numerous successful projects in Europe and worldwide reusing old industrial buildings and complexes as showcase spaces housing exhibitions and cultural programs. The library is but a first phase of the entire project. The following phases are to include renovations of all the remaining buildings located in the Pijacala zone. Once the project is completed, it will become an important urban public space and a future generator of culture in Istria.
The idea behind the interior design of the library is based on preserving the existing character and feel of the building, featuring fragments of former decoration and atmosphere. Throughout the interior space one is able to see parts of old construction and materials.
The great Marble Hall, housing today's library, is a place where once upon a time paychecks would be picked up and workers' would go on strike in. The new project tries to show its spaciousness, its grandeur and quality of natural light. In terms of color, the new project pays respect to the existing environment by choosing exclusively light and/or white shelves, walls, furniture, equipment and floor finish. This brings to light the existing marble walls, which gave the Hall its original name. The bookshelves are installed into wall recesses, once windows overlooking surrounding spaces. In order to make them accessible, the floor level is raised along the library's perimeter.
Counterbalancing the bright white, monumental space of the library itself is a black, dark foyer, an entry hall of sorts serving as link to service rooms, the Internet center, stairwell and a lecture room. With its color and atmosphere, this contrasting space is referring to the mining industry itself, bringing to fore the very zone once used exclusively by the miners. In the central corridor leading to the Bath there is a small "Miners' Memory" room, closed off by a thick rubber curtain, featuring archival videos of the miners' underground life, projected onto a water screen.
Plain green ceramic tiles covering walls of the former miners' bathroom are preserved in patches, creating visually impressive ornament along the black walls, discreetly referring to the room's original use. The main construction intervention in the space is the insertion of a new floor above the hall itself. In order to differentiate it from the space itself as an add-on, a foreign body, it was designed as a steel box of sorts, with its steel construction and metal floor and ceiling. Next phase of the project to be developed is a Multimedia Hall, to be housed in the aforementioned miners' Bath. It is a room of rather impressive proportions, leading into the recently opened public Library.