The new Beijing sub-centre library aims to set a new benchmark in sustainability and future library design in China. The building’s unique and enclosed design encourages social and environmental sustainability through inclusivity and transparency
Currently under construction, the library is designed by Snohetta, who won an international design competition back in 2018, in partnership with local practice, ECADI. The design promotes space for learning and exchange by creating a sculpted landscape in the centre of the library.
Composed as a stepped courtyard, the space brings people together while connecting them to all relevant spaces on top and under the reading landscape. Acting as the main circulation space from the north to the south, this amphitheatre-like space permeates throughout the whole library.
“The big open space of the library is designed to bring people together – spatially but also intellectually; the large reading landscape promotes distribution and access to knowledge and creates an experience that is distinct to conventional sections of libraries,” said Snohetta.
They continue, “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 favourite book.”
While approaching, the library resembles a pavilion sitting in the landscape, featuring a ginkgo forest-like roof canopy and China’s first self-supporting glass façade which rises to 16 metres in height. The building’s highly transparent façade is designed to reveal the activities inside and invite the passers-by to explore the generous space inside.
The tree-like organic canopy rises from the valley floor to support the roof above. An excellent design decision was to integrate a building technology system that tackles climate control, lighting, acoustic comfort and rainwater disposal inside the slender canopy columns.
The roof also features integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) that replaces conventional roofing material, creating one of the most environmentally friendly roofs possible according to the architects.
The overhanging roof also helps to cut down the solar gain during the summer months. To further reduce the solar gain, the Low E performance glass on the east and west façade has been reduced on the walls, while the north and south façade features a sun-shading device.
The new Beijing sub-centre library aims to reinvent the library model characterised by permeability and openness. The design presents an open plan layout creating spaces that are private and public at the same time. Rather than compartmentalising, the design breaks open the internal spaces into one seamless experience.
For more than 30 years, Snøhetta has designed some of the world’s most notable public and cultural projects. Snøhetta kick-started its career in 1989 with the competition-winning entry for the new library of Alexandria, Egypt. This was later followed by the commission for the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, and the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center in New York City, among many others.
Since its inception, the practice has maintained its original transdisciplinary approach, and integrates architectural, landscape, interior, product, graphic, digital design and art across its projects. The collaborative nature between Snøhetta's different disciplines is an essential driving force of the practice.
The practice has a global presence, with offices spanning from Oslo, Paris, and Innsbruck, to New York, Hong Kong, Adelaide and San Francisco.