Injecting a whole load of new into a very old space can be a risky business, but in the case of the CONtemporary Library, the gamble has paid off in spades. A Turkish bath in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is the setting for this installation – a wonderfully evocative, almost eerie vault dating back to the 16th Century – created for the Art Today association. As the name of the project suggests, the group focuses on the more modern arts, so the choice of venue may have raised a few eyebrows, but in the event the work has succeeded in not raising any conservationist hackles.
As it’s a temporary installation, designers Studio 8½ couldn’t sink their teeth in too far, instead using the central area to construct a stage on which the library sits; only the nooks and crannies of the old walls are augmented by subtle lighting. Using timber for the circular centrepiece, the natural flaws and knots of the wood perfectly complement the cracked and peeling plaster of the bath walls.
Readers of the solely contemporary literature – from the city’s Centre for Contemporary Art – can recline in comfort on scatter cushions against the sloped sides. All around them, suspended, naked bulbs cast shadows and lend a very atmospheric effect to the ancient cavern. Who says libraries are dead?