For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
Bekijk de site in het Nederlands

The provisional design for the interior of the new University Library by interior architects MVSA Architects was agreed this week. Among the defining elements of the design are its use of colour, a reference to the building's history as a hospital.

Library hallway
Colour use in the corridors with seating Image: MVSA Architects

The interior design plan describes how the interior of the building is expected to look when it reopens in the University Quarter in 2021. It is quite a task to fit the seven kilometres of books, 950 study places, an office wing and a lecture room in the building. The entire design process comprises two phases: the provisional design and the final design. The provisional design that has now been agreed is an intermediary step on the way to completing the final design in the summer of this year.

Historical elements in the colour and design

In the preliminary process, the students indicated that they value the historical elements of the building. Moreover, they feel it is important that they feel at home in the new library. The interior architects of MVSA Architects took these ideas as a starting point for their proposal for a diverse and colourful design that references the building's history as a hospital

design library atrium
Possible layout of the Atrium. Image: MVSA Architects

When asked what typifies the design, interior architect Maarten Schumacher of MVSA Architects explains: ‘The unique, historical and monumental characteristics of the building will be retained. The interior will be an extension of this, with added functionality, comfort and colour. There will be comfortable study places, inspirational rooms for working together and inviting meeting places, providing a pleasant place to be and work.’ The varied and flexible study places mean that every student will be able to find a place that meets their precise needs at that moment.

Seven kilometres of books

The provisional design comprises a number of parts. A design has been made for the layout of the bookcases, to ensure that once the building opens there will be plenty of space to house the library's seven kilometres of books. As soon as the final design is completed it will be clear which part of the collection will be in which area and what the bookcases themselves will look like. For the design of the study places, students were consulted via a questionnaire. This formed the basis for the interior architect to come up with a proposal for the study place designs.

design study hall library
One of the study rooms, students studying among the books. Image: MVSA Architects

What was the biggest challenge?

Maarten Schumacher: ‘The building (originally the 2nd Surgical Clinic) is made up of many individual rooms, corners and niches with floors that are staggered in relation to each other in each building block. The challenge of the interior design was to create clarity, a good overview and cohesion in this. We have achieved this by giving each block its own colour palette (zoning) and ensuring that the aesthetic signature of the building runs as a clear line throughout.’

Subdued basic colour palette

Concerning the specific use of colours, Maarten says: ‘Out of respect for the building, a subdued basic colour palette has been chosen that is in keeping with the character of the 2nd Surgical Clinic. These colours have a certain degree of saturation. To give the interior a contemporary touch, brighter colour accents within this same colour spectrum have been added.’ The exact choice of colours is still to be discussed, so there may be some deviation from the colours shown in this provisional design.

Library colour scheme
Colour use on the ground floor. Image: MVSA Architects

Questions? More information

If you are a student or an employee at the UvA and you have any questions, comments or constructive input, please send an email to

You can find more information about the new University Library on the Binnengasthuis premises at the campussite at Universiteitsbibliotheek [in Dutch, will be translated soon].