This project won the 2013 Architizer A+ Popular Choice Award in the pop-ups category. See the full list of winners here.
We're totally nerding out over this A+-winning pop-up, which combines our love for adaptive re-use, architectural ruins, and ... books! For a week last fall, Studio 8 1/2 converted a 16th-century Turkish bath, or hammam, in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, into a contemporary art library, bringing international acclaim to this largely forgotten monument.
8 1/2 designed the |CON|Temporary Library for the Urban Dreams Festival, a month-long celebration organized by the Center for Contemporary Art of Plovdiv and the association Art Today. Art Today had asked Studio 8 1/2 to come up with a design that would showcase the Center's archive in the hammam's main hall.
"The main inspiration for us was actually the building itself," says Studio 8 1/2 owner Vladislav Kostadinov. (The structure, built over an ancient Roman bath, was used as a communal bath by both men and women until the 1990s, when it was abandoned.) "The surrounding space, the centuries of historical layers on the walls, the sun looking from the small windows on the top," Kostadinov elaborates, "even the smell and taste of it."
The resulting spiral wood structure perfectly complimented the shape of the hall while directing the viewer to its spectacular 43-meter-high cupola. The installation consisted of a sitting area, a bookshelf, and a computer in which visitors could peruse the Center's archives. Instead of the standard desks and chairs (too stuffy!) seating consisted of colorful pillows arranged on a wooden ramp, which added to the exotic old-world ambiance. The freshly cut wood and bare light bulbs brought some modern minimalism to the decaying architecture of the monument.
It was that uniting of ancient grounds, 16th century architecture, and contemporary art that most delighted Kostadinov about the project. "The whole new installation communicated with the existing space," he recalls. And what's more: The public ate it up. "We like that our library is one lively place with many people in it, a cozy calm island in the heart of the urban jungle," he says. "It's not only a nice feature, but an escape from reality. It is a dream."