Transforming a repository for books into an engaging civic landmark
The new 50,000 sq m (540,000 sq ft) Chongqing Library is a stunning urban complex that respects the long and unique culture of its predecessor while looking toward this energetic region’s future. The program exemplifies the transformation from a simple ‘repository for books’ into a civic center that includes an exhibition hall, computer facilities, ancient archives and reading rooms. Features such as hotel rooms for visiting scholars, a public theater, a conferencing center and restaurant also help redefine the library as a civic destination.
To convey the importance of this new civic landmark, the design concept was predicated on the notion that learning, knowledge, and the exchange of ideas must be free, open, and accessible to all. To reinforce this notion, the building is sheathed almost entirely in glass, actively engaging the public and welcoming them in. The facade is inscribed with selected quotes from scholars - ranging from Chairman Mao and President Roosevelt to renowned philosophers including Socrates and Confucius - all reinforce the empowerment, knowledge, and freedom gained from learning.
The building’s form is based on both the Chinese architectural tradition of the courtyard and the interior multi-storey atrium halls of traditional Western libraries. The courtyard of the library deviates from tradition in that it is visibly open to public. Approaching the library, visitors see a sculptural reflecting pool that cascades into the central courtyard garden. Boundaries between inside and outside are purposely blurred, allowing users to feel that they are in a place of nature and serenity. Interior reading rooms take the form of floating platforms amidst a forest of tree-like Y-shaped columns.
Interiors feature granite and marble accents complemented by wood, stone, and natural tones. This overall contrast of materials is reflective of Chongqing, blending inside and out, warm and cold, traditional and modern.