The Philology ‘Brain’ Library

Foster and Partners are the architects behind the Philology Library of the Free University in Berlin.


The Free university is one of the city’s most important symbols of education and also one of the leading institutions in Germany. With more than 39,000 students it is by far the largest of Berlin’s three universities. The project included the restoration of the uni’s Modernist buildings and also the design of a new library for the Philology faculty.


The site for the library links six of the university’s courtyards. It has four floors all of which are contained within a naturally ventilated bubble-like skin. The Skin is clad in aluminium and glazed panels are supported on steel frames with a radial geometry.


The inner ‘membrane’ is made from translucent glass fibers and is used to filter the daylight, creating an atmosphere of concentration with also scattered transparent opening allowing for momentary views of the sky and glimpses of sunlight.


The book stacks are located and structured in an ordered manner in the centre of each floor, with reading desks placed along the perimeter of the floors. The serpentine profile of the floors creates an edge pattern in which each floor swells or recedes with respect to the one above or below it. (Creating a similar pattern to a brain MRI.)



“Amusingly, the library’s cranial form has already earned it a nickname, ‘The Berlin Brain’

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  1. Awesome design. Love the way lights are used in the library area.

  2. haji lak lak says:

    Art is above truth. It is the truth within the lie, to quote Picasso. And as for architecture, it is a more practical form of art. The building is like an organism that consumes human beings. Architecture is frozen music, said Goethe.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    When I first looked at this it creeped me out to the point where I didn’t like it. But on second thought it becomes a bit more clever – a brain full of information, an intricate filing system etc, the metaphor is really effective.

  4. mary c says:

    @hciurej dont you wish youd thought The Philology 'Brain' Library | Design Tavern:

  5. mary c says:

    @hciurej of this first hahaThe Philology 'Brain' Library | Design Tavern:

  6. Linda Moran says:

    RT @designtavern The Philology 'Brain' Library | Design Tavern Very cool!!!

  7. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by zup2u2: @hciurej dont you wish youd thought The Philology ‘Brain’ Library | Design Tavern:

  8. The Berlin Brain library pic #asla2011

  9. staceyt says:

    #asla2011 library space and it's effect upon user behaviours the brain library

  10. [...] The Philology ‘Brain’ Library | design tavern [...]

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