Chongqing Library / Perkins Eastman

Architects: Perkins Eastman
Location: Chongqing,
Project Year: 2007
Building Type: Public Assembly
Construction Area: 50,000 sqm
Budget: US $38.6M
Photographs: © ZhiHui Gu


For the largest city in China, comprising 30 million inhabitants and more than 3,000 years of history, a new library had to be much more than just a collection of books. Chongqing, often called “mountain city” for its majestic natural features and geography, realized this early on in its plan to develop a world-class library.

Perkins Eastman’s design for the new Chongqing Library, a stunning 540,000 sf urban complex, evolved from a central idea of expressing the freedom and importance of knowledge. Conceived as a cultural and civic icon, the library goes beyond the notion that a library is simply a repository for books-incorporating a concert hall, gallery space, conference facilities, restaurant, and a hotel for visiting scholars.

The building is sheathed almost entirely in , providing transparency for the functions inside and reinforcing the notion that knowledge and ideas must be shared. The design team developed a dot pattern for the to mitigate heat gain and glare, and text comprising quotes from famous scholars throughout history is layered over the pattern. From world leaders including Chairman mao Tse-Tung and president Theodore roosevelt to renowned philosophers including Socrates and Confucius, the inscribed text idealizes the profound impact of life-long learning on individuals and society-the empowerment of ideas expressed through words.

second floor plan

The building is organized around a central courtyard form, which is a motif found throughout Chinese architectural tradition. This courtyard, however, is formed one level below the street and is an open-air landscaped forest, providing a green oasis in the middle of one of China’s fastest growing cities. While the courtyard can be seen by the public at street level, it is accessible only from the reading rooms-reserved for use by the library’s readers. Separating visitors from the court, a sculptural refecting pool gently cascades into the courtyard.

The merging of building, water, and forest is emblematic of the city, which is at the confuence of two major rivers that form forested hillsides surrounding the city. Both interior and exterior fnishes artfully reference the colors and textures of Chongqing, a blending of inside and outside, traditional and modern. native stone, representative of the older structures found in the region, plays a prominent role in the interior lobby, public spaces, courtyard, and the exterior walls. The Y columns in the courtyard level reading rooms are topped with curved tree-like canopies.

Cite: "Chongqing Library / Perkins Eastman" 02 Jan 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Jul 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=11052>

11 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Those Y columns are very striking, as is the pond. Honestly, one of the strangest things about this building to me is the massive amount of recessed lights in some of the photos. Maybe it’s appropriate, but it feels like quite a lot. The idea of a library with so much natural light it extremely appealing, conservation issues aside.

    http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    from wikipedia: Chongqing’s summers are among the hottest in China. The temperature can be as high as 43°C, with an average high of 35°C in August. by this, we could say, the massive explosure of glasses in this project is less-energy saving. In addition, air-pollution in the city of Chongqing is very serious, so, this huge scale building might need more consideration of how to be environmental friendly.

    another hand, since Chongqing is the “foggy city” in China(in spring and winter days), aboundant natural lights is in much need. Also from the plans, itlooks like all of glassy panels are facing north, I hope to see more feedbacks from the users.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    …can’t comment on the context / site considerations above…but otherwise, wow, what a lovely project. Great mix of materials, really wonderfully balanced. Awesome.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    a library feels like a suburban shopping mall? could you explain what is the really awesome part about the project? I agree comment from xing, all these glass walls donnot get along with the local weather from the perspective of energy saving. you might call it “eye-striking” (well, not even)? but certainly not heart-striking! seems to me all such moves are just for image, however soulless….

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Wow, I don’t know what malls you’re shopping at. The ones near me sure don’t look anything like this. Maybe it’s the glass curtain walls you find soulless? I’ve never been to Chongquing, so I can’t speak to the context or site considerations, environmental issues, but there’s some pretty sophisticated play in the arrangement of the glass volumes. What’s a soulful or eye-striking example of a municipal scale library? I’m curious.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    If it’s a suburban mall, then it’s a very classy one. The Y columns are subtly dramatic.. I would criticse the treatment of the exterior, all those acres of glazing gives the outer appearance a generic blandness.

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