I didn’t plan to focus on architecture during our trip through South America. I wanted a bit of a break to be honest. You know; less is more. So, when I went to see the Virgilio Barco Public Library designed by Rogelio Salmona, I wasn’t really in the mood to ‘appreciate architecture’. I was in the neighbourhood, just walking around on a sunny day in the Simon Bolivar Park in Bogota. This library is doubtless one of the most incredibly designed and detailed buildings I have ever been in.
From the outside the building doesn’t really look that interesting – it’s a mixture of curved walls and water and too many different elements.
The entrance is also strange – you can’t see the building, because there’s a beam in the way…
…but then you are met with terraces of water and suddenly the building looks a lot more interesting.
When you step into the library, after being greeted by the reception desk, you see an open space. Not books or shelves, just an open space! This was the moment that I realized that I was in a very special building.
Not only an open space, but windows that allow you to look at the surrounding gardens and water features.
Sadly I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in the areas where the books are kept. There are walkways on the roof of the building, so you can have a view over Parque Simon Bolivar and the surrounding buildings.
Rogelio Salmona designed various public and private buildings throughout Colombia. He was born in Paris, but his parents moved to Colombia when he was very young. In 1947 Le Corbusier (world-famous Swiss-French architect) did a trip through Colombia and invited Salmona to work at his atelier in Paris! In 1948 Salmona went to Paris and worked as Le Corbusier’s daughtsperson for nearly a decade! Only after this apprenticeship did Salmona complete his studies.
The walkways are on different levels and sides of the buidling, so you get a 360 degree view.
The skylights and highlevel windows provide a good amount of natural light.
I wouldn’t mind having to sit through a lecture in this space:
I was fortunate to explore more of Rogelio Salmona’s buildings in Bogota, Colombia, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Cultural Centre. His use of simple red bricks, large windows and the roof space creates an incredible awareness of space inside and outside his buildings. If you are in Colombia, do yourself a favour and look up the architecture of Rogelio Salmona.