The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd

Culture

Book club

With a museum, a ‘book hostel’ and treehouse pavilions scattered through its green spaces, the new branch of the Taiwan National Library will be about people as much as books, its designer Carlo Ratti tells Christopher DeWolf


Thousands of years of knowledge is now accessible from any mobile device. You’d think this would have made libraries obsolete; after all, what’s the point of warehousing volumes of text when their contents can be accessed virtually? And yet, in the midst of the digital revolution, libraries seem more important than ever.

“Libraries still have a very important function to perform – face-to-face interaction,” says Italian architect Carlo Ratti, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His firm, Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA), recently won a competition to design the new southern branch of Taiwan’s National Library in collaboration with Taiwanese studio Bio-Architecture Formosana (BAF). Located on a 5.7 hectare site near the former capital of Tainan, a historic city on the balmy southeast coast of the island, the library will include a book repository, museum and archives, part of which will be a preservation centre that digitises Taiwan’s academic resources. But perhaps most of all, the library will serve as a gathering space.

BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER
Ratti says that, like museums and other cultural institutions, libraries provide something the internet cannot: genuine human interaction. “They can bring people together in a single space that allows for the exchange of ideas and a high degree of serendipitous connections,” he says. “Rather than holding onto their traditional role as keepers of huge quantities of information – in which they functioned somewhat like static monuments to knowledge – we believe that libraries should become interactive hubs that promote new models for learning and knowledge-sharing. They should evolve from buildings that contain information to cultural ecosystems that promote lifelong learning and community interaction.”

Making sure it achieves that goal is the main challenge of the library’s design. Its location in a park on Tainan’s suburban fringe complicates things. “Given the size of the project, it was a big challenge to design [the library] in a small suburban town,” says BAF principal Ching-Hwa Chang. Their solution is to break up the mass of the library into smaller volumes, making it less imposing and more approachable. Chang says their vision is to merge the library into the existing town fabric. “The library would not be a destination but rather an integral part of the locals’ daily life, shifting the formality of the conventional library to a community space,” he says.

Key to that plan is a huge canopy that will create a variety of all-weather spaces for “community activities like group exercise, playing chess, picnics and outdoor discussion.” From there, visitors are taken down a “main street of knowledge” – a central axis that links all of the library’s different elements.

The Agora is a sheltered, open-air square that functions as a kind of giant living room, with steps and terraced spaces where people will sit, chat, read and attend events. From there, visitors can access reading rooms, research pods, a youth area and educational facilities, or they can continue down the axis to a lecture hall or the museum, where visitors can follow an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) – known as the “book bot” – to see how books are preserved, restored and digitised. Researchers will be able to take advantage of a “book hostel” where they can stay overnight when they are doing particularly intensive research.

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
In an effort to reduce the library’s ecological footprint, the architects will preserve 90 per cent of the site’s existing trees, with the remainder used to create wood furniture or “treehouses” – little pavilions that will be scattered through the green spaces around the library. The library follows a north-south axis in order to reduce solar heat gain in Tainan’s hot, sunny climate. The central axis also serves as a wind tunnel to ventilate the library’s open-air spaces, and spaces that need to be air-conditioned will be powered by photovoltaic cells installed on the canopy that stretches over the library.

Both BAF and CRA have been keen to explore sustainable building methods in their previous projects. Ratti says the library will make use of lessons learned in Living Nature, an experimental pavilion at the Milan’s 2018 Salone del Mobile that housed “four seasons under one roof,” using solar energy and light-reactive sensors to cool or warm spaces with zero carbon footprint. BAF will employ the same “circular economy” principles as its Beitou Library in Taipei, a solar-powered wood structure that recycles water. Although the National Library’s main structure will be made of steel, “wherever possible we will use wood,” says Chang, along with other local, sustainable materials such as bamboo, clay and terracotta.

Along with being environmentally friendly, the architects hope the use of those materials will give the library a sense of being rooted in its surroundings, one that complements the openness of its design. “I think the changing role of libraries means they must stress openness in order to survive as essential cultural institutions,” says Ratti. “The paradigm of how information is stored and shared is changing, and we believe these ideas of openness and diffusion should be physically embodied by the design.”

A NEW GENERATION OF LIBRARIES

In an era of digital information, the newest wave of public libraries emphasise their role as impactful spaces to gather, read and contemplate the world

Xiangmi Science Library
Shenzhen, China 2017

MLA+ ensured this 1,500-square-metre library treads lightly over its setting in a lush public park, thanks to cantilevered metal canopies that give it the appearance of floating above the surrounding trees.

Xiangmi Science Library Photo: ©Vlad Feoktistov
Photo: ©Vlad Feoktistov
Photo: ©Vlad Feoktistov
Central Library
Calgary, Canada 2018

Designed by Snøhetta, this crescent-shaped structure spans a railway with 22,000 square metres of spaces that range in atmosphere and purpose from ‘fun’ to ‘serious.’



Helsinki Central Library
Helsinki, Finland, 2019

Designed by ALA Architecture, this 17,250sq m building features public amenities including a cinema, restaurant and spaces for concerts and exhibitions.

Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo
Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo
Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo
Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo
Qatar National Library
Doha, Qatar 2018

OMA’s design for this 42,000-square-metre behemoth allows visitors to see the entire space in one glimpse, with terraced stacks and marble shelves that contain lighting, ventilation and a book return system.

Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappellettio
Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappellettio
Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappellettio
Gallery
Click on an image to open the image gallery
company profile
Company profile: bbspa_Group
In an extremely competitive world where clients have ever increasing demands, creating a successful wellness and spa project is more and more complex. To help you differentiate yourself and protect your investments, we founded bbspa_Group, a global consulting company dedicated to wellness and spa projects, which puts the focus on your success.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
The new building forms the backbone of the masterplan developed by DCA in 1999
Alexander Schwarz
"Our aim was to create a place celebrating public space and accessibility"

The opening of the James-Simon- Galerie on Berlin’s Museum Island completes two decades of work for David Chipperfield Architects. The lead designer talks us through the building

Mikyoung Kim created a sculptural fog fountain for Chapel Hill
Mikyoung Kim
"Nature isn’t rigid. It’s open-ended; that’s its beauty"

The Boston-based landscape architect on blending art and science to design creative spaces that bring communities closer

Inside the FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, designed by Gensler
Tom Lindblom
"Public spaces support the widest diversity of experiences"

At last concrete proof that design is the critical factor that turns good experiences into great ones says Gensler’s Tom Lindblom

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Cook’s drawings for Plug-In City show a futuristic, constantly evolving city with modular units that ‘plug in’ to the central structure
Peter Cook
"Somehow we’d caught the imagination of people"

As a book about radical architecture collective Archigram is released, we speak to one of the founders about the need for fun

The Smog Free Project turns smog into jewellery
"I want to demonstrate that creativity is our true capital as humans "

Rather than feeling fearful and helpless about the future, we must design a way out of the environmental problems we have created, argues the innovative Dutch designer, artist and inventor Daan Roosegaarde

Elina Grigoriou
Elina Grigoriou
"Temperature, noise level and colour affect our stress levels. As designers we should be asking ourselves, how do these things match up?"

The London-based interior designer and wellness expert hopes her new book will help readers understand how to design with wellbeing in mind

features
Susan Ungaro has been president of the James Beard Foundation since 2006;
"It was a truly one of a kind look"

On the winners of the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Restaurant Design Awards

Interview: Blurred lines
Scott Lee became president of SB Architects in 2000. Tracy Lee founded TLee Spas in 2015
"We design to connect the guest to the place, positioning people at the centre of the design"

Architect Scott Lee and spa consultant Tracey Lee on marrying the worlds of design and wellness in a series of interesting projects

cladkit product news
Siminetti unveils iridescent decorative panelling range inspired by plants
The Clematis design
Megan Whitby
The Botanicals is Siminetti’s newest Mother of Pearl decorative panelling collection, inspired by the distinctive patterns found in botany and ...
Ojmar introduces battery-free electronic locker to cut carbon footprints in health clubs and spas
Ojmar says the batteryless lock is easy to install and features a user-friendly interface
Megan Whitby
Smart lock manufacturer Ojmar has released the OTS20 Batteryless – the first battery-free electronic locker lock on the market. The ...
Alberto Apostoli and Newform collaborate to launch the A.Zeta showerhead
The showerhead offers two modes; rainfall or waterfall
Megan Whitby
Italian architect Alberto Apostoli has renewed his partnership with Newform – an Italian wellness company – and designed A.Zeta. A.Zeta ...
cladkit product news
CSI Design Expo Americas 2024 announces new Attractions & Entertainment Technology Zone
The event will allow buyers and suppliers to meet
Magali Robathan
Cruise Ship Interiors (CSI) invites cruise lines, shipyards, design studios, outfitters, and suppliers to take part in CSI Design Expo ...
Codelocks develops new glass door smart lock
The new lock model allows facilities and building managers to create and manage access via an app or online portal
Megan Whitby
Codelocks has launched its first glass door smart lock to bring intelligent access control to modern spa, leisure, fitness and ...
Mather & Co and ITV unite to create Coronation Street Experience
Mather & Co has transformed the visitor centre into the ultimate haven for ardent Coronation Street viewers
Magali Robathan
Experience designers, Mather & Co, have orchestrated a remarkable collaboration with ITV to unveil the new Coronation Street Experience, a ...
cladkit product news
Eco Resort Network conference to convene in Mauritius this May
The event will be hosted in the Mauritius in 2024
Megan Whitby
Hospitality industry event Eco Resort Network is set to take place at the Ravenala Attitude Hotel, Turtle Bay, Mauritius, from ...
Alberto Apostoli designs tech-forward Wellness Therapy furniture collection for Varaschin
The furniture collection draws on absolute geometries, pure lines, neutral colours and strong references to nature
Megan Whitby
Furniture manufacturer Varaschin has unveiled the new Wellness Therapy range, designed by Italian spa and wellness architect and designer Alberto ...
Koto Design introduces wood-fired hot tub
Koto is known for crafting modular, energy-neutral cabins and homes
Katie Barnes
A striking wood-fired hot tub has been unveiled by Koto, an architecture and design studio which has a passion for ...
The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd