Digitalization takes command of the world, and its thinning effects are increasingly felt in architectural types that once upon a time were solid and stable. A case in point is the library, whose mission of being a container of books is steep in crisis, in danger of replacement by that of being a container of human interactions. Another is the office, which from a conceptual standpoint is under siege by the unavoidable fact that the perspective of today’s working people are their computers, and their source of information and venue for exchanges, the Internet.
Fully aware of this paradigm shift, the Rotterdam architect Rem Koolhaas has initiated interesting projects that address the digital challenge without renouncing the idea that architectural space can continue to be a guarantee of ‘civilization.’ This is true, for example, in the Qatar National Library in Doha (see Arquitectura Viva 204), and also in the recently dedicated new edifice on the Berlin campus of the German digital publishing house Axel Springer. The building’s faceted core recalls the exaggerated forms of the Seattle Central Library, but also has links to the Doha construction, given that the program is rigorously distributed in a series of terraced platforms that open up, at different heights, towards the construction’s principal feature: a huge atrium pouring out towards the street, the quintessential symbol of civic life.