When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimensions of hope.
As was natural, this inordinate hope was followed by an excessive depression. The certitude that some shelf in some hexagon held precious books and that these precious books were inaccessible, seemed almost intolerable
J.L.Borges, The Library of Babel
The idea of collection blurs the distinction between quantity and quality. As a result of processes of addition, repetition, or agglomeration, quantity becomes a possible type of quality; quantity obtains a quality of its own. These two concepts that clearly mark opposite approaches to measuring a single object, see their meanings become interchangeable when faced to the idea of collection.
A book is a usual everyday element. One person, if very interested in them could put together a small collection, own a rare book, maybe even a small number of them. The substantial difference in quantity between a single-persons effort and that of a city, school, country or institution, engenders the idea of library and the set of qualitative values it represents: a place where more books than even the most interested or richest person could possibly own, are available to everyone. The idea of collection is then also the physical embodiment of that of collective effort.
If we think of quantity as a gradient where the single book is one extreme, a National Library, the largest collection in one country can be the other extreme. But the idea of a National Archival Collection, as present in this project, clearly jumps out of the gradient, forcing us to think of a new category able to portray the enormous difference that exists between the largest collection in the country and a collection with all the books in the country. As in Borges tale The Library of Babel, where an endless library whose age, number of books or librarians nobody knows, is faced to a revolution when it is proved that it contains all the possible books, an idea containing in itself all possible hope together with all possible despair.
This idea of the absolute, quantitative and qualitative at the same time, is what makes this building so unique in terms of its program.
The project seeks through various design strategies to render visible, intensify, strengthen and reflect this fact.
It is the product of an accumulative process in which the concept of quantity is explored through the repetition of forking branches that contain the different parts of the program. What becomes interesting out of this method is pattern. Beyond a critical quantity (as in the case of the collection) a new whole emerges, not limited to the sum of its' parts. Through this process of accumulation, figure-ground relations loose importance as ground-ground relations become crucial. Through the forking and crossing of the branches, a three-dimensional field is generated in which the relations between the elements become more important than the elements themselves; the voids and the spaces between the branches allow for a play of lights and views that is perceived from all interior spaces as well as from the exterior; by the building users as well as by people passing-by.