The Library of Alexandria building
Aga Khan winner 2004
Bibliotheca Alexandrina (EG)
First broadcast date
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a revival of the legendary ancient library built in classical Greek times. The rebuilding of the library has returned Alexandria to its former status as a centre for learning and exchange and provided the city with a landmark building. The spirit of international cooperation in which the library was conceived, funded, designed and implemented has been maintained in its management to create an institution that is truly global in its outlook. At the same time, the building is technically outstanding.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina - Own production
Public areas and social issues
- Tourism and cultural sites / Architecture
- Tourism and cultural sites / Tourist sites
- Egypt - Lower Egypt - Alexandria
The structure of Alexandria Library
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a project of reconstruction of the library of Alexandria City, which is recognized as the largest knowledge center of the ancient world. The old library has functioned between the III century BC and the seventh century, and was founded to collect, or to translate into Greek, all the books circulating in the Mediterranean. It was able to contain up to 500,000 books and also hosted scholars and their disciples. However, it was gradually destroyed in the beginning of the third century, during the Roman invasions and in the course of the Christian struggles against paganism.
In 1974, Alexandria University planned to rebuild the mythical library. Many Arab countries, the UNESCO and the National Library of France have quickly supported this project. The architectural competition was launched in 1988, the Norwegian architect Snøhetta was selected and the first stone was laid in 1990. Main contemporary monument of the city of Alexandria, the building is particularly remarkable due to the granite wall comprising the alphabets of the world. The new library, which can contain 3.5 million books and accommodate 2,000 readers, is a trilingual foundation (Arabic, English, French) dedicated to the history of Egypt, the Mediterranean and the Arab world.
It is also an international cultural and research center, with four museums, specialized libraries, a conference center, a planetarium and research centers. It maintains the largest collection of books written in French, imported from Africa thanks to a donation of 500,000 books by the National Library of France. Among the books is an original one entitled Description of Egypt commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte.
The project was criticized due to its grandiosity and given the difficulties of developing a documentary fund in three languages by a country that has limited financial resources. However, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina intended to reincarnate itself in the ancient library by becoming an international center of cultural and scientific exchanges and promoting conferences, exhibitions and events. The short report, produced by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which presents the contemporary building, is inspired by these vows and shows the modern architecture blending local decorative elements, natural light and host devices, the importance of electronic documents and the access conditions for the visually impaired and disabled, while promoting the capacities of cultural mediation that the new library can afford.
2007, Return to Alexandria. An Ethnography of Cultural Heritage Revivalism and Museum Memory
, Walnut Creek, Left Coast Press.
Canfora L. 1988, The true story of Alexandria Library, Paris, Desjonquères Editions.