The Royal Library — Copenhagen, Denmark

Category: Educational facilities

Architect: Arne Jacobsen Photographer: Kenneth Ku Laursen

The Old Reading Hall (one of five sites of the Royal Library), Faculty Library of Natural and Health Sciences

When it was first opened in 1938, the new modern library at Nørre Allé was viewed as the study environment of the future. The reading hall accommodated 25 people, and 600 books and journals in a light, airy space. However, over the years the design of the library was compromised by a mezzanine structure, crowded seating and unsympathetic lighting. 'There were horrible fluorescent lamps,' says Lene Wendelboe, head of section at The Royal Library. 'It was like a factory floor.' Following a renovation completed in 2021 by Danish architects Arkitema, The Old Reading Hall, as the space is now known, has been transformed into the calm, conducive space for study that was originally intended. A key component in that transformation has been the introduction of individual task lighting, the Pale Rose version of Louis Poulsen's classic AJ Table luminaire. 'The lamps are quite well known – they are beautiful and classic,' says Wendelboe. 'We have worked with Louis Poulsen before, and they are reliable and competent.' The room is light, and flooded with natural light in summer so that a degree of window screening is needed. Individual lamps were therefore a practical solution to controlling light levels. 'Danes like “hygge” and small lights at tables provide that feeling instead of flooding the whole room with artificial light,' says Wendelboe.


Thinking about light at an early stage

The decision to integrate the task lights – a total of 72 lamps – was taken at an early stage. The lamps were specially adapted and incorporated into the study tables, redesigned from the originals by Arkitema and constructed by WO Interior. WO carpenters worked closely with Arkitema, creating a recess in the table that corresponded to the five per cent inclination of the original table lamp. The switch is placed just beside the lamp for easy individual control. This attention to detail was part of the overall ambition to respect the original building where possible – removing the intrusive mezzanine, retaining the original wooden shelves – while creating a modern study environment. Wendelboe's verdict on the new lighting? 'On a scale from 1-10, an absolute 10. The lighting is a big factor in making this room. They are present but they are not overpowering. The aim was to keep the room calm, warm and inviting and I think we have succeeded.'

Products: AJ Table