Snøhettas Glass-Clad Beijing City Library Unveiled in China, Featuring Hills and Valleys

Snøhettas Glass-Clad Beijing City Library Unveiled in China, Featuring Hills and Valleys

The Beijing City Library, a wonderful creation by Snøhetta, has recently been unveiled in China. The project features a glass-clad facade, adorned with towering tree-like columns while the interior rooms resemble hills. This collaborative project with ECADI, revealed to the public in 2022 after winning an international competition in 2018, is set to elevate Tongzhou into a dynamic arts and cultural center. Read more on SURFACES REPORTER (SR):

Located in Beijing's Tongzhou district, this library, designed by Snøhetta, refreshes the role of libraries in the modern times by offering a new take on traditional library design. Inspired by nature, its layout encourages people to put away their screens and connect with their surroundings. Robert Greenwood, a partner at Snøhetta, describes the design: "The terraced landscape and tree-like columns encourage visitors to look up and take in the bigger picture. It's a place where you can relax under a tree and read."

The 'Valley' Atrium 

In the center of the Beijing City Library is the "Valley," a tall atrium filled with hill-shaped structures, seats, stairs, and bookshelves, all connected by a winding path.

This area serves as the main pathway through the library, much like the nearby Tonghui river. Underneath these rolling hills are quiet spots for reading and meetings, with some areas flattened for tables. Besides, the library includes rooms for shows, fixing books, and semi-private spaces nestled within the hills.This central open space is fully accessible and hosts one of the largest Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) for books worldwide.

Unique Design Elements of Beijing City Library

One notable feature about the library is its tall columns, made to look like the tops of ginkgo trees. These columns narrow into flat sections at the top, holding up the roof and making it feel like you're under a thick forest canopy. The columns are built in a way that reduces waste and includes advanced features like lighting, sound, and collecting rainwater.

Outside, real ginkgo trees are planted near the entrance, making visitors feel closer to nature. Inside, the glass walls are strong and help support the building, making visitors feel even more connected to the natural world.

Sustainable Design

The structure has achieved China's GBEL Three Star, the highest sustainability standard in the country, by minimizing both embodied and operational carbon emissions. Modular components and a streamlined structural grid are utilized to reduce manufacturing waste. For the ginkgo tree columns, a single module type is strategically rotated on a 9x9m grid to create visual diversity while maintaining efficiency in fabrication and installation. These columns are also equipped with integrated technology to regulate interior climate, lighting, and acoustics, as well as to harvest rainwater for reuse. Ample roof overhangs mitigate solar heat gain on the glass facades, while the roof incorporates photovoltaic (BIPV) elements for renewable energy generation.

Snøhetta wants this project to make libraries more than just places for books, their main aim is to restore them as essential community hubs. Co-founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen highlights, "It's people's passion for books that has kept libraries going despite the digital era." He stresses the need to bring back the joy of reading away from screens, emphasizing the lasting importance of libraries in our society.

Project Details

Project Name: Beijing City Library
Location: Tongzhou District, Beijing, China
Architect: Snøhetta
Local Partner (Structural, Geotechnical, Civil, Lighting, Cost): ECADI
Facade & BMU Engineer: Eckersley O’Callaghan, Meinhardt
Client: Beijing Planning and Natural Resource Bureau
Main Contractor: China Railway Construction Engineering Group
Gross Floor Area: 75,000 sqm
Height: 22.3m
Courtesy: https://www.snohetta.com/projects/beijing-city-library
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