one of the world's largest libraries opens in shanghai, boasting sculptural forms

one of the world's largest libraries opens in shanghai, boasting sculptural forms

step inside the spellbinding shanghai library east 

 

Shanghai Library East, a new civic landmark and cultural destination in the world’s third most populous city, has opened to the public. Designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects (SHL), the building is one of the largest new libraries to exist. Its primary function as a center of art, culture, and technology-driven learning in Shanghai reflects the modern library’s rapidly changing raison d’être. At the same time, its allusion to classical Chinese scholarship—the building’s form conjures the scholar’s rock of the ancient literati—anchors it in tradition.

 

This important cultural center for the citizens of Shanghai embraces the idea of ‘collection to connection’—a space to bring people together. It’s the city’s gift to them,’ notes Chris Hardie, design director for SHL’s Shanghai studio.

one of the world's largest libraries opens in shanghai, boasting sculptural forms

image © RAWVISION

 

 

reinterpreting ancient chinese culture 

 

Taihu stones, or scholars’ rocks, served as muses for the Jin dynasty intelligentsia—sources of creative inspiration and meditation. They were prized for their abstract qualities, perforated surfaces, eroded hollows, and unique textures. In its architecture, interior design, and programming, Shanghai Library East by SHL evokes a scholar’s rock in a Chinese garden: a polyhedral stone enveloped in an emerald tree canopy; a naturally occurring network of interconnected interior spaces; a wellspring of knowledge, inquiry, and discovery.

 

This library was a unique opportunity to reinterpret a cherished Chinese symbol through architecture and design,’ says project architect Jing Lin. ‘In ancient times, scholars would gather around Taihu stones, deriving inspiration from their edges, curvatures, canyons, and tunnels, which seemed to shift when viewed from different vantage points. Similarly, as visitors move about Shanghai Library East, their views of its interconnecting spaces shapeshift.’

one of the world's largest libraries opens in shanghai, boasting sculptural forms

image © RAWVISION

 

 

The library’s exterior pays homage to printed literature through an even subtler symbolism. An abstract motif depicting 15 photographs of marble swirls ‘printed’ onto the façade’s glass panels represents the library’s ‘cover.’ Arranged in horizontal bands of varying transparency, these etched panels allow light to penetrate deep into the building, illuminating the space—and, like a good book, enlightening the mind.

 

Although housing diverse books, Shanghai Library East will also host more than 1,200 lectures, seminars, performances, events, and hands-on activities for upward of 4 million visitors annually. This panoply of programs will be facilitated by 1.2 million square feet of open, flexible, and interconnected environments.

 

On the main level, a grand central atrium welcomes guests into a vast yet warm and inviting atmosphere of bamboo, oak, and terrazzo. Overhead, the floors stack and interlock—an architectural strategy to visually connect each of the library’s seven levels. Meanwhile, the lower floor serves as an agora, or central plaza, hosting various events, exhibitions, a bookstore, and a café. ‘Libraries have long formed the backbone of many communities, becoming an integral part of our lives. It’s why we refer to them as the ‘third space’—a highly personal place that exists between our home and our work,’ Hardie explains.

one of the world's largest libraries opens in shanghai, boasting sculptural forms
image © Tian Fangfang

 

 

From the exterior, the library appears to ‘float’ above two pavilions—one housing a 1,200-seat theater, exhibition, and events space; the other housing a children’s library with a central courtyard and outdoor play spaces. Atop the pavilions are outdoor landscaped reading rooms with roofs to protect visitors from rain. Visitors enjoy panoramic views of the iconic Shanghai skyline and Century Park, the city’s largest green space.

 

The smart and hybrid Shanghai Library East is a new generation library. It is not only a place for storing and lending books, or a reading room, but also an open space for culture and art,’ says Chen Chao, director of the Shanghai Library. ‘Exhibitions, lectures, music, art, experiencing technologies, and even entering the library itself are seen as a kind of ‘reading.”

one of the world's largest libraries opens in shanghai, boasting sculptural formsimage © RAWVISION

 

 

connecting people through art 

 

Local artists were integral to the design process. Ten contemporary artists from China and abroad—including Xu Bing, Gu Wenda, Zheng Chongbin, Emily Floyd, Ni Youyu, Mia Liu, Plummer & Smith, Simon Ma, and Yang Zhenzhong—created site-specific permanent installations. Curated and realized by the international arts consultancy and manufacturing company UAP (Urban Art Projects), the public artwork program is rooted in the theme ‘Mediums: The Development of Writing.’ The works are intended to inspire readers, encourage communication, and celebrate knowledge.

 

The public art vision for the Library, to create an unprecedented collection that befits an institution devoted to education, study, and the archive of texts, has been an essential guide in the realization process,’ notes UAP’s principal Dane Currey, who oversaw the curation and delivery of the art program for Shanghai Library East. ‘To have been able to guide the artists and accompany the commissioner and their architects in this journey of conceptualization, experimentation, and realization has been an honor.’

one of the world's largest libraries opens in shanghai, boasting sculptural formsimage © RAWVISION

 

shanghai-library-east-designboom-full-3

image © RAWVISION

one of the world's largest libraries opens in shanghai, boasting sculptural forms

image © Tian Fangfang

one of the world's largest libraries opens in shanghai, boasting sculptural forms

image © RAWVISION

 

shanghai-library-east-designboom-full-4

image © RAWVISION

 

 

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project info:

 

name: Shanghai Library East

location: Pudong District, Shanghai, China

start date: April 2016

groundbreaking date: September 2017
top-out date: September 2019
completion date: December 2021

gross built area: 115,000 sqm
site area: 39,500 sqm

programs: library, exhibition, classroom, auditorium, shop, café, office, parking

 

client: Shanghai Library

architecture: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

design director: Chris Hardie
design team: lu Rong, Jing Lin, Simon Persson, Bartek Winnicki, Tasha Feng, Sicong Liu, Michelle Tang , Liang Dong, Xiaoshu He, Xing Meng, Qi Zhao, Zhao Wu, Lanqing Hu, Xuewei Liu, Fangzhou Zhu, Morten Schmidt, Lukasz Truchalski, Trushit Vyas, Steven YN Chen, Morten Nielsen, Sebastiano Cattiodoro, Steven Morten, Tade Godberse, Chao Chen, Beihong Mao, Xianjing Jia, Jiaqige Sheng, Si Chen

local architect: Arcplus Institute of Shanghai Architectural Design & Research

contractor: Shanghai Construction No.4 Group
landscape architecture: ASPECT Studios
structure consultant: Schlaich Bergermann Partner
MEP consultant: Buro Happold
sustainability consultant: transsolar
signage consultant: 2 x 4
light consultant: LEOX
facade consultants: Shanghai DHD Curtain Wall Design & Consulting, Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design & Research, DS-plan

 

participating artists: Xu Bing, Shen Fan, Gu Wenda, Zheng Chongbin, Yang Zhenzhong, Ni Youyu, Mia Liu, Simon Ma, Emily Floyd and Plummer & Smith
public art consultant & manufacturer: UAP (Urban Art Projects)

photography: RAWVISION Studio, Tian Fangfang, Haha Lu
film: RAWVISION Studio

ARCHITECTURE IN CHINA (1539)

ARCHITECTURE IN SHANGHAI (183)

LIBRARY ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN (238)

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