New National Library in China houses the country's literary treasure 'Siku Quanshu
The new National Library of China building in Beijing is the third largest library in the world and houses as many as 12 million books. The structure is the new home for the 'Siku Quanshu' ('Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature') which was completed in 1782. It represents nothing less than China’s cultural nucleus. The architects’ brief, however, was to design not just a domicile for the cultural treasures of the past but also a building that is looking forward. Therefore a present-day digital library was to be added to the historical collection. Jürgen Engel comments that: "one of the biggest challenges for us was to find a way to bring all the features together. We had to design a timeless yet innovative building."
Beijing’s heterogeneous urban fabric demanded a distinct basic shape. Inspired by the classic division of public buildings in China the architects divided the 27-metre high library building into three sections; the pedestal with ascending steps, a column section and the roof. Based on this traditional style of building they looked for a contemporary interpretation.
For functional reasons these three sections make sense as well. A solid-looking pedestal building forms the basis and houses the old books and written documents. It symbolises the rich tradition of Chinese culture and as such the past.
The glass section in between the pedestal and the roof, which looks like a transparent conjunction, stands for the present day. It houses the public section with information stands, foyer and cafeteria.
The library is crowned by the steel roof complex that spans the large reading room without any columns and houses the media and digital sections of the library. The roof with its shimmering silver sheet steel skin is reminiscent of a digital data storage device. In the various sections of the building old and new, tradition and innovation face each other while at the same time forming a harmonious combination.