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Infrastructure of Culture

Latvian National Library

The project of Latvian National Library (LNB) or the Castle of Light within the last two years has turned from the word of mouth into an actual construction project.    Within a year and a half it has approached the stage of construction works, witnessing that the issue once widely discussed in respect to founding of a specialized agency “The New Three Brothers” for construction of the library, but at present - also the concert hall and museum - has been justified.

The project of the building was designed already in the 20th century, since 1989 during the years of the “third awakening”; it has become a monument to the Awakening and a symbolic warranty for the recognition that Latvia has to become free – both politically and spiritually. The national romantic idea of the Castle of Light, the idea, which has been present since the time of the first Awakening in the 19th century, has been expressed in stone and glass.

The author of the project design of the building is the world - famous Latvian origin architect Gunārs Birkerts from USA. G. Birkerts developed the project in close cooperation with the employees of the Latvian National Library, studying the needs of the library and interpreting them into the language of space, lines and numbers.  What is needed for the parameters of the project to correspond to the demands of the Latvian Construction Law in turn was provided with the help of the partner of G. Birkerts in Latvia – the architect’s office of Modris Ģelzis.
In 2001 the exterior design of the library was approved at the Latvian Construction Board. The architectural image and compliance to the chosen location of the design of the building of Latvian National Library was praised by specialists in many significant press publications and during joint meetings of experts (UNESCO) of several countries (Denmark, Sweden, USA, Great Britain, Japan, Italy, etc.)  In 2000 the project of the new building of Latvian National Library has been awarded the American Annual Prize in Architecture. 

The architect Gunārs Birkerts has already designed 18 libraries, therefore it was far easier for him to include all of the many functions of a modern national library according to the needs of the readers in the design of Latvian National Library: opportunity of easy access to the storage of books (million units), large number of seats for the readers  (1000), information in printed and electronic form. The National Library has to service all public libraries as well and to fulfill the function of information gate or intermediary in the international, national, regional and local information exchange. In 2000 LNL project of G. Birkerts was awarded the American Architecture Award founded by the Museum of Architecture and Design of Chicago (USA) and the architect himself was awarded the Latvian Academy of Science Great Medal for an outstanding contribution to twentieth-century world architecture.

Integral part of the National Library project is the State Unified Library Information System or  “Gaismas tīkls” (Lightnet). Its implementation is provided by the State Agency “Culture Information Systems”. 

Lightnet encompasses approximately 2000 libraries of Latvia, providing them with new hardware, internet connection and information system, which allows free search of information of interest in other libraries of Latvia, as well as ordering and receival of required books and other printed material in a county or city library.

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