snøhetta’s ‘library for the future’ is under construction
the new ‘beijing sub-centre library’ designed by snøhetta features a 16-meter-tall glazed enclosure, which will become china’s first self-supporting glass façade. developed alongside local partner ECADI, the ‘contemporary yet timeless’ library also includes a sculpted learning landscape and a forest-like canopy.
slated for completion by the end of 2022, the project was first awarded to snøhetta in 2018 following an international design competition. construction started in 2020 and since then, the roof has been put in place and the tall glass enclosure is currently under installation.
images courtesy of snøhetta
a sculpted learning landscape
the concept behind snøhetta’s design is to create an open and inclusive public space for learning and exchange while simultaneously celebrating beijing’s heritage and rich cultural history of science, art and performance. this idea is made tangible by a sculpted, amphitheater-like space in the middle of the library. it’s designed to bring people of all ages together — both spatially and intellectually — while the twisting ‘valley’ forms the backbone of the library, connecting the north and south sides of the building.
the rest of the building features similar open spaces for interaction and exchange. there are also curved tables that serve as more conventional reading and study spaces. activity from inside the library is revealed to passersby thanks to the transparent elevational treatment, reinforcing the theme of openness and inclusion and inviting people inside.
a forest of knowledge
in addition to the sculpted learning landscape, the interior of beijing sub-centre library is distinguished by slim white columns that support the roof. not only do these elements create a forest-like atmosphere, but they also house tech systems that operate the building operations such as climate control, lighting, acoustic comfort, and rainwater disposal.
the stepped landscape areas with the tree-like surroundings invite people to sit down and take a break at any time on their journey through the building — creating an informal zone and the notion of sitting under a tree reading your favorite book.
under the roof canopy and atop the sculpted landscape is a variety of experiential spaces where visitors can find their private place for reading and learning while always being connected to the larger common area. creating a feeling of being tall and low, open and closed, private and public all at the same time. there are no designated ‘sections’ or categorizations of knowledge.
the project aims to set a new benchmark for future library design: from building and enclosure technology, social and environmental sustainability, to public ownership in cultural spaces. sustainability strategies include integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) construction elements on the roof and an overhang to reduce solar gain.
the glass height has been reduced on the walls facing east and west, as well as adding an active sun-shading device facing the south and west façade. the glass itself is an insulated glass unit with low-e- performance. all the major materials for the construction have been sourced locally, and the use of modular components with a rationalized structural grid has been used to reduce the need for customization for both the columns and the roof.