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National Library

Three subterranean stories, with a single skylight the only source of daylight. ÅF Lighting rose to the challenge and won a major award for their lighting design at the National Library of Sweden.

Lighting to enliven a library

Apart from a great many books, Sweden’s National Library Kungliga Biblioteket is intended to house a great many readers, studying or carrying out research. The main building dates from 1877, but in the 1990s a three-story subterranean wing, the “Annexet”, was added. This section receives daylight through a single skylight, which creates challenging lighting conditions in terms of extreme contrasts.

As part of a major refurbishment, ÅF Lighting developed a lighting concept catering to the different needs of visitors, as well as creating a balance between the bright, day lit spaces and the darker areas of the building. The light fittings were integrated with the architecture, and vertical surfaces like pillars were illuminated, in order to reduce contrasts and increase the use of the entire space. The lighting was also made adaptable to a typical user’s needs, as well as to differing levels of natural light throughout the day and throughout the seasons.

“This project has been an exciting challenge” says lighting designer Isabel Villar. “We have aimed to design lighting that allows all of the spaces in the underground levels to be used, even though there are large areas with no access to daylight. These days, when you visit the building, there are people using all of the niches and alcoves on all three floors, which makes me very happy.”

Swedish Lighting Award for National Library

In 2014, ÅF Lighting was presented with the Swedish Lighting Award for their work at the National Library. In their motivation, the jury pointed to the interaction between daylight, electrical lighting and the bold choice of colours. Expressing admiration for the winning team’s ability to transform a lacklustre space into a light, inspiring place for study, they praised their depth of knowledge and innovation skills.

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