MVRDV, in collaboration with UAD, has been selected as the winner of the competition to design a new library for Wuhan, poised to become one of the largest libraries in China. The large-scale project creates diverse study environments and offers reading and studio spaces while also connecting to its surroundings via three large openings that display the life inside the buildings to invite visitors to enter. Spanning over 140,000 square meters, the distinctive building adapts its volume to reflect its position at the confluence of two main rivers in Wuhan and become a recognizable landmark for the city.
Located in Wuhan’s Central Business District, the library goes beyond literature and information services by offering its visitors access to scientific and technological information and research resources. The structure also aims to become an open and inviting space for anyone. The shape of the buildings takes its cues from the geography of Wuhan, while the large openings draw attention to some of the main features of the surroundings: a low, wide window offers a panoramic view of the nearby park, while the curving window embraces the adjacent plaza and creates a connection between the interior and exterior.
Interior spaces are also influenced by the landscape formed at the confluence of rivers. Stepped terraces on books invoke sculptural canyons, and broad ground-floor spaces allow public circulation routes to flow through the building. Pavilion-like spaces on the terraces contain the library’s different programs, with quiet reading areas and group study spaces shaping the topography of the bookshelves. The central “reading canyon” thus becomes the central space tying together all aspects of the building.
Several measurements are taken to reduce energy consumption in Wuhan’s hot climate. The building façade incorporates louvers in “a bookshelf-like pattern”. These louvers are more densely packed in the areas that need the most shade. Lange cantilevers also provide shade, while openable elements allow for natural ventilation. Solar panels are incorporated into the library’s flowing roof shape to provide the building with renewable energy. The exterior spaces are landscaped with tall trees to provide cooling, while the main public areas are shaded by the northwest corner of the building. By using native vegetation species, maintenance needs are reduced to a minimum.
Going inside, certain landscape elements come together. There is a series of plateaus that can be used for studying. The higher up you go, the quieter the study and reading spaces will be, serving the needs of visitors. The topography of Wuhan was an important source of inspiration: we have this idea of a horizontal view towards the lakes, and on the other hand, we have this more vertical view towards the city with the high rises. This is nature versus the city, and the building somehow focuses on this. I think this makes it an exciting place to gather. - Jacob van Rijs, founding partner of MVRDV
This is not the first library MVRDV has designed for China. In 2017 the Tianjin Binhai Library opened to the public a 33,700m2 cultural center featuring a luminous spherical auditorium around which floor-to-ceiling bookcases cascade. In 2021, MVRDV has also completed the Idea Factory, a transformation of a former factory building in the Shenzhen urban village of Nantou, China. The intervention reuses and improves the building instead of demolishing and rebuilding it.