Ningbo Central Library

The Danish architecture office Schmidt Hammer Lassen has won an international competition in 2013 to design a library in the Chinese city of Ningbo, located along the east coast of the country. This new public addition to the port city of Ningbo will become the home for its enormous historic collection. The Ningbo City Library was founded in 1927 and holds in its collection approximately 1.8 million books. The issue is that only half of those books can be stored in the current library. This collection is the region’s largest one for historical and ancient books and it will now be protected in full under the roof of this new library. It will also have the flexibility of an expansion of this collection to up to 2 million books.

Courtesy of Schmidt Hammer Architects

Courtesy of Schmidt Hammer Architects

Ningbo Central Library will be located on the edge of a new ecological wetland area that will form the cultural hub for the newly developed eastern part of the city. A ceremony was held during the last week of June 2015, celebrating the commencing of construction of this new 30,000 square meter library. The building is expected to be delivered to the public in 2017. The team at the Schmidt Hammer Lassen office has a long and successful experience on designing public libraries. After Canada’s Halifax Central Library and Edmonton Highlands Branch Library came the Christchurch Library in New Zealand and Scandinavian’s largest library, Dokk1. The most recent Ningbo library is the firm’s first one in the country of China and it is probably their most profound. “Given our great collaboration with the Local Design Institute and the client team, we are full of confidence that the Ningbo New Central Library will become a vibrant new public space for the citizens of Ningbo,” the Partner and Director of Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s office in Shanghai, Chris Hardie, stated.
Courtesy of Schmidt Hammer Architects

Courtesy of Schmidt Hammer Architects

The library is designed to be strictly public as it is widely open and accessible. The focal point of its internal organisation is a central atrium of a staggering height of 28 meters. This atrium takes the form of an almost virtual and giant book stack and it essentially occupies the central core of the building, directing the attention and main uses on its space. It is comprised of study desks, reading booths, internet and reading spaces. On the floor level of the atrium, circular bookcases create semi-private spaces which can be zoned according to sound levels or specific functions. The architects have done a great job in differentiating the levels of privacy across the library. The architects refer to the transparent ground floor as the “marketplace”, where actions and uses are public and in this way it gives room for private research and historic collections on the levels above.
Courtesy of Schmidt Hammer Architects

Courtesy of Schmidt Hammer Architects

Furthermore, natural sunlight is directed “deep into the heart of the library” and from there is redirected to the adjacent spaces providing comfortable light levels for concentration and reading. This main core “acts as an urban lantern after sunset.” The marketplace becomes a public square where the most popular collections and library functions are collected. It is both physically and visually open to its surroundings, something which links the building to the ecological park and lake.
Courtesy of Schmidt Hammer Architects

Courtesy of Schmidt Hammer Architects

The New Central Library is important for the heritage and culture of the historic city of Ningbo and for this it has been given a key location adjacent to the new Ningbo Government building, in the new town that is under development within the city. The architects, planners and designers have done a fantastic job in creating a building that gives to the people. It is a building driven by the people and the needs of their growing community for public awareness and cultural identity. Upon completion, I believe that the new library will become a symbol for the new area within Ningbo and will improve the psychological factors of the sense of place and belonging within the city’s population. It will become an icon of international identity where knowledge and social capital are blended under the clever differentiation between public and private spaces and functions.

Project details:

Architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects
Client: City of Ningbo, Ningbo Library
Area: 31,405 square meters
Competition: 1st prize, restricted invited international competition
Status: Expected completion in 2016
Landscape architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects

By: Andreas Leonidou

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