Schmidt Hammer Lassen wraps China’s largest library in a glass facade

The long-awaited Shanghai Library East, designed by Danish studio Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, has opened to the public in China.

The 115,000 square meter Shanghai Library East, located in Shanghai’s Pudong district, is the country’s largest library.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen designed its monumental form with reference to a type of stone unique to the region, called Taihu stone, which features perforated surfaces and eroded hollows.

The Shanghai Library East was designed to look like a stone

The stone is known as “scholars’ rocks” and has been widely used in Chinese gardens for centuries. It also features in ancient Chinese literature, which often referred to its changing appearance.

“This library was a unique opportunity to reinterpret a cherished Chinese symbol through architecture and design,” said project architect Jing Lin.

“In ancient times, scholars would gather around Taihu Stones, drawing inspiration from their edges, curvatures, canyons and tunnels, which seemed to change when viewed from different vantage points,” she added. .

“Similarly, as visitors move through the Shanghai Library East, their view of its interconnected spaces changes shape.”

Large library with glass front
Shanghai Library East is the largest library in China

SHL also designed the exterior of the seven-story library to reference literature. Fifteen photographs of marble swirls have been “printed” onto the facade’s glass panels as a tribute to the long history of printed literature in China.

The printed panels were designed with varying degrees of transparency to help let more natural light into the building.

Library in a park with glass facade
The library seems to float above a park

The main structure of the building is supported by two pavilions. Seen from a distance, this gives the impression that the main volume of the library “floats”, as the lower pavilions are covered by the trees of the adjacent Century Park.

One of the pavilions houses a 1,200-seat theatre, exhibition and events space; the other is a children’s library with a central courtyard and outdoor play areas.

Outdoor reading spaces above the library offer views of Century Park.

Shanghai Library East Atrium
The atrium at the entrance connects the seven floors of the building. The photo is by Tian Fangfang

The open interior of Shanghai Library East features interconnected spaces and multiple openings, which were also designed with reference to Taihu stone with its multiple hollows.

Bamboo, oak and terrazzo were used to create a welcoming central atrium at the entrance to the building, which connects the seven levels of the library.

Shanghai Library East Interior
Bamboo, oak and terrazzo are used inside to create a welcoming atmosphere. The photo is by Tian Fangfang

SHL created the stacking and interlocking of different floors to ensure that all floors are visible from the central atrium. The ground floor can be used to host events and exhibitions, and also houses a bookshop and a café.

According to Shanghai Library East, more than 80% of the building’s space is dedicated to community activities.

He estimates that the library will host more than 1,200 events for more than four million visitors each year.

“This important cultural center for the citizens of Shanghai embraces the idea of ​​’collection to connection’ – a space to bring people together,” said Chris Hardie, Design Director and Chief Architect of SHL.

Bird installation at Shanghai Library East
An installation by Chinese artist Xu Bing is the centerpiece of the building’s main reading area

Ten contemporary Chinese and international artists were invited to create site-specific permanent installations for the library, centered around the theme of print, book or stone.

Among them is Bird, an installation created by Chinese artist Xu Bing for the third floor inside the building’s main reading area. It consists of 842 paper “birds” suspended from the ceiling as if flying towards the bay window facing the park.

Library shelves with concrete floors
The lending library will also host cultural events

SHL has completed a number of libraries around the world including the largest Scandinavian library Dokk1 in Denmark, Halifax Central Library in Canada and Christchurch Central Library in New Zealand.

The studio is currently working on several cultural projects in China, including two performance halls in Westbund Shanghai and a performing arts center in Beijing.

Video and photography are by RawVision, unless otherwise noted.


Project credits:

Design Director: Chris Hardy
Design team: Lu Rong, Jing Lin, Simon Persson, Bartek Winnicki, Tasha Feng, Sicong Liu, Michelle Tang, Liang Dong, Xiaoshu He, Xing Meng, Qi Zhao, Zhao Wu, Lanqing Hu, Xuewei Liu, Fangzhou Zhu, Morten Schmidt, Lukasz Truchalski , Trushit Vyas, Steven YN Chen, Morten Nielsen, Sebastiano Cattiodoro, Steven Morten, Tade Godberse, Chao Chen, Beihong Mao, Xianjing Jia, Jiaqige Sheng, Si Chen
Local architect: Shanghai Arcplus Institute of Architectural Design and Research
Countryside: ASPECT Studios
structural consultant: Schlaich Bergermann Partner
MEP consultant: Buro Happold
Facade consultant: Shanghai DHD Curtain Wall Design and Consultancy, Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design and Research, DS-plan
Service provider: Shanghai Construction Group No.4

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