Designed by Foster and Partners as part of the campus renovation, the 68,000-square-foot Philology Library houses some 700,000 books and consolidated 11 departmental libraries that had been scattered throughout the campus previously. Part of the Freie Universität Berlin Library which comprises the University Library and around 40 departmental libraries with a total holdings of around 8 million printed items, 38,000 e-journals, 400,000 e-books, and 1300 databases, it was completed in 2005 and became an architectural jewel for both the University and the City of Berlin itself.
The Philology Library is also known as the “Berlin Brain” because it looks like a cranium when viewed from above. The building also has a strong focus on sustainability and energy-saving, employing a range of green design strategies. The mass of the overall concrete structure acts as a passive thermal funnel and its double skin canopy and double floor act as air duct and heat buffer. Depending on the weather, the building is either heated or cooled by water pipes embedded in the concrete slab floor. The Brain “breathes” to provide better ventilation and regulate the internal temperature by opening (in moderate temperatures) or closing (in lower temperatures) the exterior flaps. According to Senior partner Stefan Behling – Foster’s resident expert in sustainability and energy conservation, “for 60 percent of the year the library is ventilated by simply opening panels or using controlled fresh air drawn from an underground tunnel. On extremely hot days cooling is provided by air-conditioning in the existing buildings. … the building is one that you don’t have to switch on. … Most of the year the building operates completely with its own natural ventilation.” The library is said to consume 35 percent less energy than a comparably sized building.