The construction of De Krook was preceded by a design competition. No fewer than 99 architectural firms competed for this prestigious project. The winning design is by the Ghent architects COUSSEE & GORIS in partnership with the Spanish-Catalan firm of RCR Arquitectes, winners of the 2017 Pritzker Prize. The “Krook” (river bend) is very recognisable in their design, which follows the course of the river and keeps the building on a human scale, despite its huge surface area.
‘This concept succeeds in creating the correct atmosphere that a Ghent library wants to evoke: serene, quiet, profound, respectful and yet very inviting. The right balance between action and calm, between noise and silence, between relaxation and concentration, between dynamism and seriousness… is achieved in this lyrical concept. This atypical concept certainly means an innovative architectural approach to the embodiment of the library as a social concept; it unambiguously incorporates a high cultural sustainability and will position itself in terms of its intelligent, communicative and research dimension.’
– Citation from the evaluation report of the jury of the design competition in 2010.
The Ghent Library Krook does not stand alone. The outdoor space with squares, bridges, terraces and a lowered quay is inextricably linked to the building, creating a completely new district in a previously neglected area. The outdoor space connects the historic 19th century part of the city with the student district on one side and the administrative centre on the other, and continues towards the arts quarter with the city’s main museums. De Krook thus forms a link between various urban functions, and the library indelibly and permanently alters the face of its city.
Final delivery of the outdoor space is scheduled for the end of 2018.
The design of De Krook provides for a direct connection to the future central covered square of the Wintercircus. The Wintercircus is part of Ghent’s heritage with an eventful history: founded in 1894, it went up in flames as early as 1920. After its reconstruction in 1923, the 3,400 spectators enjoyed not only circuses, but also revues, variety programmes and film broadcasts. In 1947 it became a garage. The vintage cars collected by owner Mahy can be admired today in the Mahy Museum. In 1978 the garage closed its doors and the building faded from its former glory.
The Wintercircus is currently being renovated (delivery planned for 2020) and will include a concert hall, exhibition space and various catering outlets in addition to the covered square.
‘De Passanten’ – Michaël Borremans
Not just another spot for birds to rest, ‘De Passanten’ (The Passers-by) by Michaël Borremans is a bronze statue in the square in front of De Krook. The three metre high artwork consists of four figures leaning against each other, symbolising the connection between knowledge and culture experienced by visitors to Ghent Library De Krook. Be sure to look, touch, and walk around it.
“In my first design, I glued the heads of four figures together with a big piece of chewing gum. They literally put their heads together. I thought that was a good image to suggest that they are passing on knowledge. The cushion between their heads is their grey matter.”
“All of the figures are very generic, as in all my other works. You don’t see one specific person, but you do see what a person could be.”