Matali Crasset's bibliothèque de plage


26 July 2013

French designer Matali Crasset has completed a tarpaulin beach library for the commune of Istres' Romaniquette beach in the south of France.

The kiosk structure was commissioned by the Mayor of Istres. “This is a project about beach life so I thought it was a really good idea to bring this kind of structure to the beach, encouraging people to read," says Crasset. "There was no real brief, but I decided to do something more than simply put a shelf on the beach, I wanted to make a place where you could step into.”

The small library is a steel structure covered by orange tarpaulins and surrounded by three shady blue and beige lounges. “It’s vivid and enticing. It has to be colourful because I love colour but not fluorescent," says Crasset. "The colour orange, for me, represents the presence of all the energy, creativity and imagination you get in the books. When you read a book you want a transformation, a kind of energy or capacity to go elsewhere.”

The library’s stock of some 350 books was selected by the Istres public library, although Crasset also provided a small list of books to include. “The books I chose were quite important in my development. For example Things: a story of the sixties by Georges Perec, or Jane Austen if you want something a little less intellectual," she says. "By providing this list I feel like there is a small connection between me and the people on the beach.”

A selection of more accessible books adorn the outside, enticing beachgoers in towards the library, while inside a librarian is present to discuss visitors' interests and advise on the available books to choose from. The emphasis is on accessibility and for the library to be used by all beach users.

The design's sunshine colour and simple construction recall familiar beach constructions like changing rooms, food kiosks and shops. “I had no clear references but I wanted to make it in the language of the beach," says Crasset. "It's like a beach kiosk with canvas and metallic supports, but I wanted the shape to be quite contemporary. Its own style.”

The structure was commissioned to be a permanent addition to the beach and is intended to be open every summer. Crasset has further proposed that an indoor location be considered for during the winter, “I made it portable and easily assembled. I think it would be really interesting to do the structure indoors as well. So they are now trying to think of an idea to accommodate that, as it was not the original brief."