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Website featuring a large selection of
high quality images of the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria
Library) in Egypt. All photography by James Willis.
James Willis is one of the most experienced
photographers in the UK. Specialising in people, major projects,
and architecture - for corporate print, advertising & editorial
use - he works throughout Europe, the Middle East, Far East &
USA. In a career spanning 25 years, his photographs have contributed
to award-winning projects for clients such as: Amlin, Balfour Beatty
Major Projects, Bank of Scotland, Banque Paribas, Barclays Group,
Commercial Bank of Kuwait, Contemporary Arts Society, Daiwa Europe
Bank, Debenhams, Eversheds, Guardian Financial Services, Gulf Bank,
Hambros Bank, Inter-Continental Hotels, Johnson Matthey, KPMG, Merrill
Lynch, Midlands Electricity, National Bank of Kuwait, NatWest Consulting,
PowerGen, Procter & Gamble, Reuters, Riggs AP Bank, Standard
Life, Visa International; to name a few.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is not a library building
- it is a modern-day monument to the seamless marriage of architectural
brilliance and engineering excellence. Built by a JV alliance of
Balfour Beatty and Arab Contractors of Egypt for the Egyptian Ministry
of Education, the $117.5 million contract has been recognised as
the catalyst of urban regeneration for the sea port and holiday
resort of Alexandria.
Designed by the Snohetta/Hamza Consortium, its breath-taking form
outshone 523 entries in an international competition, convincing
the Egyptian Government that it would be unrivalled in its reflection
of the library's former glory in a 21st Century context. But the
triumph of the Bibliotheca is as much about conquering cultural
challenges as it is about engineering feats, and it is this aspect
of the project that makes it truly worthy of being labelled "the
ultimate architectural icon."
Ancient Concept, Modern Context
The dominant element of the Bibliotheca is an enormous open-plan
reading room with 2,500 places that cascade down seven terraces,
making it the largest library reading room in the world. The "wow"
factor is etched deep into the facade of this mesmerising building,
with several engineering firsts, including the world's largest all-round
diaphragm wall, sunk to a depth of 35m and reinforced by a continuous
ring beam. Be it a rising sun, a microchip wafer, a mosque with
an infinite number of columns...there's a symbol for everyone at
the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina!
The main library building is circular in plan (160m diameter) and
consists of a reinforced concrete frame commencing 4 storeys below
ground and a roof that slants up from its main entrance on the Corniche
to a height of 32m. The outer wall is embossed with random, scrambled
examples of letters and pictograms from alphabets around the world
and on the western side, a suspended black spherical planetarium,
representing the moon, has been constructed to recall the observatory
attached to the ancient library of Alexandria. Papyrus has been
strategically planted in and around a newly constructed moat like
a reflecting pool in which the giant building appears to float.
Recently, the Bibliotheca has been shortlisted for an International
Award hosted by the British Construction Industry (BCI). Earlier
this year, it secured top honours in the face of stiff competition,
by sweeping the Quality in Construction (QIC) International Performance
of the Year Award for 2001.