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Svalbard gets a new venue

Meeting point: This will be the main entrance, Mette Østby said. FOTO: Eirik Palm

Svalbard gets a new venue

Longyearbyen is getting a new library, Næringsbygget will be renovated, and the main entrance to the municipal government offices will go through Kulturhuset and Rabalder.

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The work has to be finished by Christmas of next year.

The library exists now as a loft in Lompensenteret. During the next year, books and employees will move to a brand new library at street level in Næringsbygget. A majority of the Longyearbyen Community Council favors the relocation once the lease with Lompensenteret expires at the end of 2016.

'Cheaper'

When the council meets in December to adopt next year's budget it is likely to approve about 18.5 million kroner for the upgrades at Næringsbygget and part of Kulturhuset. A key reason is it's cheaper and more sensible to do it properly all at once.

"Getting started on a real library is only positive for the population," said Helga Bårdsdatter Kristiansen, a Green Party member of the council. "When you're first starting, you might as well do the rest of the building immediately. It must invariably be done later."

"So it's all about keeping the wheels turning," she said.

Her comments are shared by the other political parties on the council, which is likely to approve the project unanimously. Longyearbyen now pays 780,000 kroner a year to rent library space in Lompensenteret, which Conservative Party member Kjetil Figenschou said is enough to cover the cost associated with obtaining a loan for the work.

"Structurally it's beginning to reach a decent age," said Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen, a Labor Party member.

Se bildet større

Exterior: This is how the library will look like from the outside. FOTO: Norconsult

New main entrance

Mette Østby, the city's property manager, said she hopes demolition will start in April or May. A blueprint of the project highlights the library and information desk in green.
"Here is the entrance," she said, pointing to the wall at the foot of the stairs leading to the second floor in Kulturhuset's cafe.

The wall will be removed and replaced with glass, beyond which a counter that works both as information and library desk will greet visitors. The library will occupy the entire wing where the technical sector has offices now.

This will also become the new main entrance to Næringsbygget, which is getting a comprehensive facelift with smarter use of areas, more and smaller offices, new meeting rooms, and upgraded ventilation and facilitation for users. The ventilation and lights are sensor controlled. The architects have replaced the old windows with panoramic windows and an auxiliary entrance is at the back of the building.

"We envision that people will be drawn into Kulturhuset
where you meet the cafe and library, and that the desire
to make contact with the city government will increase"

Se bildet større

Exterior: This is how the library will look like from the outside. FOTO: Norconsult

Dead space

Until the tender process is completed and the contract signed in February or March of next year, there is some uncertainty about the cost estimate, which the city is estimating will be between from 14.8 million and 22.2 million kroner.

While the renovated space will be more airy downstairs, it will be denser with more offices on the second floor of Næringsbygget.

"There is much dead space," said City Manager Lars Ole Saugnes.

Saugnes said most of the electrical system in the building dates back to the transition between the 1980s and '90s, and has passed its prime by a good margin and therefore needs to be replaced regardless.

"We envision that people will be drawn into Kulturhuset where you meet the cafe and library, and that the desire to make contact with the city government will increase," he said.

Interior architecht

Specific plans for the library include 2.5 million kroner for new fixtures and media equipment, and the city will to get help with lights, decorations and colors from interior architect Tone Nærø who, among other projects, worked on the cultural center in Hamar. Østby said she hopes to have the first meeting with Nærø before Christmas.

"We're going to ask the interior designer to look at the color palette. We have said that we will have an Arctic library," said Østby, adding she envisions author's evenings, readings and concerts in the new large common room. Shelf sections on wheels will make the library more flexible and considerable space is dedicated to the youth area.

Østby said she's celebrating the new design.

"Yes, I'm definitely doing that," she said. "It is an exciting time we are encountering. I have young children myself and am seeing what the library means."

Moving out

This is the second major construction project advertised for next year. A few weeks ago, Svalbardposten reported Coop Svalbard will spend 40 million kroner upgrading

Svalbardbutikken, so spring is therefore when construction work will start at Kulturhuset and Næringsbygget.

"Once you have the contractors inside, it makes sense to do it all," said Deputy Mayor Eirik Berger, a Liberal Party member of the council. "So that contributes to the activity for contractors and the construction industry."

One consequence of doing the whole reconstruction at once is city employees will need to move out temporarily.


Translated by Mark Sabbatini

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Se bildet større

The new library is marked in green in the ground floor. FOTO: Norconsult

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