The architectural installation created by studio 8 ½ represents a |CON|Temporary library containing solely books of contemporary art. It provides lots of comfortable places to sit/ lay, bookcases, magazines and newspapers’ shelves, as well as a computer with very rich and detailed multimedia and video archive of contemporary artists.
The installation is located at the largest and main room of the abandoned since decades old Turkish bath (also known as hammam). The bath is a unique architectural monument from the XVI century built over an even older Roman bath. The traditional Turkish bath has been reconstructed many times over the years and it has been working and used until the 90s of the XXth century. The building is an architectural monument of local importance and is one of the few buildings of this period in the city of Plovdiv preserved until nowadays. After being completely deserted and forgotten “Chifte Bath” (Meaning used by both males and females) is brought to life by the Association “Art Today”. The Association’s aim is to present alternative and experimental forms of contemporary art; to work for their exploration and documentation; to create an informational data base, which presents contemporary authors; to prepare periodic and unique art newsletters; to create a multimedia laboratory, etc. Thus the ancient bath currently becomes the first and one of a kind Center for Contemporary Art in Bulgaria. In its halls contemporary art exhibitions, represented in various forms, take place periodically, which gives them a unique and contrasting background from the old building.
The Center for Contemporary Art in Plovdiv has been working for 15 years now and during this period of time it has accumulated a rich and diversified archive which requires a storage space. “Art Today” Association invited studio 8 ½ to design and construct a temporary library in the main hall of the ancient bath. The only condition given for it was to be not a “traditional” place to arrange books, but rather a place corresponding to the purpose and vision of the Center for Contemporary Art and Architecture. Considering the strong centric area, we decided to supplement and strengthen its shape by arranging a library in its center, just below the dome. The hall size is 12/12 m., where the height including the dome reaches 13 m. ending with a small eight-sided illuminated cylinder. This idea is complimented with a spiral ladder-like climbing to the other level. Visually the whole composition curves around the center and metaphorically and literally climbs to the dome and the sky. The different treatment of the two slopes in plan – for reading and for storage remind of the flying clothes of the whirling dervish in the center of the room. Art and books is what raise us up spiritually.
The entire library is built of wood, used in building construction. Budget restrain is never an obstacle, but rather a challenge for studio 8 ½. Here the main material again remains visible in its natural beauty and appearance – with its darkened or lighter spots. An entirely new lighting has been added, which complements and supports the desired appearance. Lighting, which focuses on the main elements of the building – the niches at the walls and arches and conch supporting brick dome, has also been installed. The colors used for the the cables and pillows – blue and green were specified as part of the logo of the festival for contemporary art “Urban Dreams”, part of which was the construction of the new library. The building lasted less than one week. The main goal set from the very beginning was the search for contrast between the shabby, accumulated over the years layers of plaster on the walls and the ceiling, the cold brick and stone walls and the warmth, clarity and coziness that a natural material such as wood can give to the whole area. The entire installation is created with a tremendous respect for its surrounding area, since without it, this effect would not be as strong.