Daily Features

Designing a Mountain of Books for Children

Architects convert a former steel plant in Mexico into the awe-inspiring Conarte Children’s Library

By Stela Razzaque, Superscript November 27, 2013

The Mexican city of Monterrey is home to some great architectural, archaeological, and cultural treasures. One of these is a historic urban space called Fundidora Park—a parcel of land once occupied by the Monterrey Steel Foundry Company until 1986. The company declared bankruptcy but left behind a unique collection of old industrial buildings, giving the park landmark heritage status. The park now boasts extensive landscaped gardens, walking tracks, convention centers, theme parks, and cultural venues such as Conarte (Council for the Culture and Arts of Nuevo León).

The reading room at the Conarte Children’s Library. © Caroga / Anagrama


The Conarte Children’s Library hopes to inspire a love of reading with a playful environment. © Caroga / Anagrama

The Conarte Children’s Library's industrial past shows through. © Caroga / Anagrama

An overhead view of the climbable reading room at the Conarte Children’s Library. © Caroga / Anagrama

The Conarte Children’s Library's reading room offers plenty of nooks in which to curl up with a book. © Caroga / Anagrama

Bright yellow bookshelves are nested within the mountainous crags of the Conarte Children’s Library. © Caroga / Anagrama

The rafters and duct work at the Conarte Children’s Library continue the theme of bright and energestic colors. © Caroga / Anagrama

A detail of the many neon lights suspended from the ceiling of the new Conarte Children’s Library. © Caroga / Anagrama

The Conarte Children’s Library includes a theater space for special events. © Caroga / Anagrama

A view of the brightly lit stage at the Conarte Children’s Library. © Caroga / Anagrama

In an effort to inspire young minds, Conarte approached the design team at Anagrama to convert a former industrial warehouse into a space that would foster a love of reading and learning for children. Commissioned by Nuevo León’s Regional Council for Culture and Art, the resulting library brings an array of surprising design elements that make reading fun. One of biggest challenges faced by the designers—Gustavo Muñoz, Miguel Herrera, and Sebàstian Padilla—was to construct an adventurous and inspiring space, while respecting the untouchable heritage nature of the building.

The solution is a bold, multi-purpose, asymmetrical platform that pays homage to the mountainous topography of the city. A series of craggy ridges covered in gray carpet move through the reading room, providing surfaces to climb and nooks to relax with a good read. Nested inside these carpeted platforms are bright yellow shelves where children can pick out a book, then comfortably sit and read on the mountain-inspired platform. This unique playground-style space where children are encouraged to climb bookshelves is sure to spark a child’s imagination and launch their interest in reading. The colourful, geometric interior provides a spectacular contrast to the gray monotones of the warehouse. Neon-red rafters flank the ceilings and continue on into a cultural center and theater where suspended tube-lights hang vertically from the vibrant neon rafters.

The new Conarte Children’s Library and civic center is a breath of fresh air from the usual library protoypes that are often dull and ordinary. We at Designers & Books tip our hats to the creative team at Anagrama, for not only respecting a heritage listed space, but enhancing it, and producing an awe-inspiring place for children to read, learn, and discover.

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