Excerpt: MVRDV designed the central library of Wuhan combining the traditional and non-traditional functions with diverse activities in the enclosure of canyon integrating literature, information services, as well as scientific and technological innovation and research resources to improve Wuhan’s public information service system.
[Text as submitted by architect] MVRDV has won the competition to design a new central library for Wuhan, China. Poised to become one of the largest libraries in China, the 140,000-square-metre project combines traditional and non-traditional functions with diverse study, living room, reading, and studio spaces. The building connects to its surroundings via three large openings that will act as visual displays of life inside the building, sparking curiosity and intrigue. This distinctive, three-faced flowing shape celebrates the position of the “city of 100 lakes” at the confluence of two rivers and will become a new recognizable landmark for Wuhan.
Located at a highly visible site next to the Baofeng overpass in Wuhan’s Central Business District, the Wuhan Library will integrate literature, information services, as well as scientific and technological innovation and research resources. The new library will improve Wuhan’s public information service system, and meet functional needs in terms of reading, learning, communication, and innovation, while enhancing the city’s urban economy.
The building concept takes its cues from the geography of Wuhan, celebrating the sculptural force of the rivers not only in their form but also in its interior character, spatial qualities, and materials. It references the different heights of the surrounding buildings in its form, with three dramatic picture windows facing the city at different vantage points.
The interior concept further reinforces the notion of Wuhan’s position at the confluence of rivers, surrounded by the city landscape. The stepped terraces of books invoke the sculptural lines of a canyon, with a broad ground-floor public space that visitors can enjoy throughout the day. Pavilion-like spaces on the terraces contain the library’s different programs and the canyon gives shape to different zones and interior experiences, with quiet reading areas, group work areas, and bookshelves as part of its topography. The reading canyon is a pivotal space, and represents a confluence of knowledge coming together inside the building.
At an urban level, the grand interior canyon draws visitors inside. In the surrounding park, planting will complement Wuhan’s climate conditions to ensure long-term sustainable maintenance. Tall trees provide cooling in areas that experience intense sunlight, while the main public areas are shaded by the northwest corner of the building. Native vegetation requires little maintenance and maintains a year-round vibrancy, while filtering the water in the rainy season and reducing the heat island effect during hot summer months.
Several measures are taken to reduce energy consumption in Wuhan’s hot climate. The building’s façade incorporates louvres in a bookshelf-like pattern, communicating the building’s function as they shade the interior. These louvres are more densely packed in the places that need the most shade from the sun; meanwhile, the building’s plinth is set back to create large cantilevers that offer shade. Openable elements for natural ventilation, combined with the use of smart devices and an efficient lighting system further reduce the building’s energy demands, while solar panels incorporated into the library’s flowing roof shapes provide the building with renewable energy.