Mies Memorial Library _ A Library within the Trees by Almost Nothing

This project was submited to the Mies Memorial Library competition with Registration ID #22426
Almost Nothing
Matilde Aleixo
Instituto Superior Técnico
Catarina Pereira
Instituto Superior Técnico

The Mies Memorial Library is a place that remarks the importance of the architect, by evoking some of his most important architecture concepts, considered vital for the architecture nowadays. The intervention adapts the principles of Mies’ works, making the best of them to serve the function, aiming to celebrate Mies and create creating good spaces to spread the knowledge of his life work.

The intervention takes advantage of the existing green area of the site, aiming to insert itself within the vegetation. The library integrated with the trees, offers the students an unique environment of learning in connection with nature. At the same time, the buildings intend to blend in by giving continuity to the original features of the campus, like the materiality, with the cream brick and the black metal.

By using the grid, the modular concept design is explored. The base concept of both buildings is the creation of a central space, a core of knowledge, where all books, documents and drawings of the Complete Mies Collection are stored, around which the rest of the program is distributed.

In the main building, the plans are used to separate but not divide de spaces, as they don’t reach the ceiling. The big entrance and reception area makes the building accessible to every visitant. The Auditory south appears as an informal area. It can be used on the daily basis, but that also offers the possibility to be closed in with curtains and serve as a formal place to host conferences, with the privileged view of the Crown Hall.

The study area is located east, closer to the residences building, as a way to better serve the needs of the students. Through the concepts of Lily Reich, the textile curtains are used to create flexible areas for group works, separated from the main studying place. Taking advantage of the glass windows, tables and integrated low shelves were created, looking at the calm green space outside.

Making the most of the requested area, an eating/coffee area was thought of as essential to reunite all the users of the new spaces, connecting the interior space of the Main Building and the Administration building as well.

The Storage and Research Center is isolated from the other two buildings, since this is the space with the most delicate items of the Collection of Mies works, with preserving and supervising needs,. It has individual working stations, both in common rooms and private rooms. The area surrounding the rooms and storage transmits an Engawa sensation, being a space in between looking at the green exterior through the glass facade, providing a good environment for the users.


1.Location – The intervention site is in a privileged place by being in front of the Crown Hall. It’s also a central location between the student residence, on one side, and the Paul V.Galving Library and the Siegel Hall, on the other side. It’s the place where everything meets.

2.Basis – The design is based on a 3×3 meters grid. The project aims to give continuity to the original masterplan of the IIT campus designed by Mies, recalling of one of the most important characteristics of Mies’ architecture.

3.Plans and accesses – Creation of an access from the buildings around through the main entrance. A secondary entrance to connect with the students residence and a third way to enter North, through the road. The plans bring the original brick materiality of the Campus and protect form the busy roads around the intervention site.

4.Masterplan – The functions were distributed by buildings. Each building was positioned in the place that created better relations with its use. So, the main building (Library+Study Center+Auditorium) is situated closer to the existing Library and the Crown Hall; The Storage+Research Center is nearby the Siegel Hall, a research building as well; and the Administration is more isolated from the busy areas surrounding.

5.Landscape – The gardens appear as a link but also receiving spaces for the new buildings. On the left, the garden area was preserved as a central meeting point for the students. The garden between the new buildings bonds them together. And the green area north is a natural barrier from the road. The element of water was an essential characteristic in Mies’ architecture and here is used for harmonious dialogue with Crown Hall. 

6.Path – Flowing through the three buildings, the ceramic tiles pavement creates a path, tying them together by the exterior. It differentiates the exterior areas of circulation from the green exterior areas to enjoy.

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