The BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France) is one of the numerous cultural projects that were decided under President François Mitterrand’s mandates, and maybe the most ambitious, since it was designed to be “the biggest and the most modern library in the world” (François Mitterrand, 1988). In this regard, it is one of those iconic places you must visit when you spend some months in Paris.
What’s most surprising about this place is the quietness and calmness it exudes. The four towers that surround the wooden esplanade, with a garden in the center of it, below the level of the esplanade, give the place quite a surrealistic atmosphere that can make the visitors feel they’ve reached a place that has moved out of time. As if knowledge – which is what libraries are about – was something to be preserved from time.
Of course, the calmness of this place also makes it feel cold, in a certain way. As in La Défense, but in a more dramatic way, the BnF is one of these projects that has been thought to work on their own, out of the city. Therefore, you won’t find the warmth of Paris’ streets there, only the cold and minimalist creation of human minds that have tried to reach the highest levels of abstraction the human mind can reach into a concrete creation made of concrete, glass and wood.
In the end, it is quite a fascinating place of Paris. Not my favourite, for sure, even more when you consider that I’m not a huge fan of concrete. However, I’ve enjoyed taking some pictures there, and even if the wind was cold, and the place too empty to be welcoming, I must say it’s definitely a library that is worth the visit.
BnF, angles 2
BnF, Angles 3
BnF, Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir