Deventer Library

Deventer Library

The new public library in Stromarkt, Deventer is contemporary in design and use of materials, while blending in beautifully with its historical context. An impressive feature of this design by BiermanHenket architects for a building of this size. With its large glass windows, the new library building extends a welcoming invitation to the city.

Since its opening in 2018, the new library in Stromarkt has been popular with Deventer residents of all ages. All of the 500 seats are occupied on an almost daily basis. And that was exactly the intention. Janneke Bierman of BiermanHenket architects: ‘This building has to appeal to young and old; it has to be an accessible place for people to meet, study and engage in literary activities. That’s why we designed an open-plan building, in every direction, with a cosy café-restaurant on the ground floor. We deliberately didn’t put the staircase right behind the entrance, so that people would spend a bit more time on the ground floor. Along the façade, there is an inviting wide oak staircase leading to two further library floors.’ 

“”Janneke Bierman - BiermanHenket architects

Fits in the historical context

With the height, articulation and choice of materials, the architect has managed to create a building that fits in well in the historical city centre. ‘It replaces a bank from the 1960s. But the bank’s fine grid of concrete columns meant that it couldn’t be repurposed as the new library because this had to have an open-plan design. The basements were retained, though, and the columns of the new building have been placed partly on the existing basement columns and partly on new screw piles. The new volume is 15.5 metres high and more or less follows the contours of the old bank, except on the east side, where the building extends a bit further than its predecessor. The result is that the L-shape Stromarkt now comprises two clear, urban spaces. Fortunately, the tall plane trees in Stromarkt could be kept.’


The famous 12th century neighbouring building, the oldest surviving stone house in the Netherlands, has been partly incorporated into the library. This monument now houses a quiet area, an exhibition space and an office space.

Glass and ceramic

The side walls consist largely of steel curtain walls. The glass is set in slimline aluminium profiles by Reynaers Aluminium, fitted on the steel construction directly behind the wall. Other parts of the façade have been clad with ceramic panels. ‘We designed these panels specifically for this building in six versions. We chose the colour ochre because it’s so common in the buildings of Deventer. The elements have vertical lines, with smooth ridges and grooves alternating each other with two different comb structures.’ 


CW 50 Curtain Walls and CS 77 Windows - Library Deventer Library located in Deventer, the Netherlands

Set in the wall surfaces with ceramic panels are windows in clean-lined aluminium frames in a variety of sizes. Particularly eye-catching are the large diagonal windows on two corners of the building. In the entrance wall, narrow wall openings have been created across two floors. Floor-high steel frames made the large glass section above the entrance possible.

Spacious and bright

The ground floor is open plan, which allows for a flexible layout. It is a continuous meeting space, which is also used for workshops, debates and lectures. Next to the entrance, there is a café-restaurant. The south wall by the garden is largely made of glass. Along this wall, there is a vide (an open space) leading to a glass connection, which creates a visual separation between the now-connected new and historical building. 

The wide staircase and open space on the north side provide a sight line all the way up to the second floor. Here, too, there are vides and skylights flood the space with natural light.

Open spaces, stairs and windows create connecting views through the library and to the outside. On the second floor, glass windows and a large corner window offer wide panoramic views of the old city centre.

From auditorium to smart lab

Apart from the usual library functions (being a facility where visitors can research, borrow books and read), the new building is equipped for a whole host of extra activities. For instance, in the basement, there is a small cinema and auditorium with 80 seats, among other things. In addition, there are book archives and a bike shelter for staff. ‘To create a pleasant height in the basement auditorium, the floor was raised by 1 metre. We were already dealing with differences in height in this space anyway: from the entrance, the floor level rises gradually towards the historical building by 1 metre,’ Bierman explains.


CW 50 Curtain Walls and CS 77 Windows - Library Deventer Library located in Deventer, the Netherlands

On the ground floor and on the first and second floor, there are a wide variety of consultation, chill-out and study areas, namely the quiet area in the historical part of the building, dining tables, armchairs, high and low tables, alcoves for sitting and lying down, stools, bleacher stairs, windowsills, long tables in the open spaces, benches and play tables, the garden and roof terrace. And, of course, there are bookcases with books, films and music. These modern bookcases are transparent frameworks, sometimes filled but they often also provide views. The office spaces are concentrated in the southwest part of the first floor of the new building and on the first and second floors of the old building.

On the top floor, a smart lab was created with a focus on making things, complete with 3D printers and benches. Adjoining the lab, the roof terrace offers spectacular views of the old city centre.

Deventer, the Netherlands
Jan Willem Schouten