This gorgeous new library will redevelop a site next to a car-choked overpass, and help revitalize a city’s central business district

Long-time REVITALIZATION readers are familiar with the Rotterdam-based design firm, MVRDV. This is because they specialize in large, green, inclusive urban redevelopment projects.

MVRDV works all over the world, including China. In 2017 the MVRDV-designed Tianjin Binhai Library opened to the public a 33,700 square meter cultural center featuring a luminous spherical auditorium around which floor-to-ceiling bookcases cascade.

And in 2021, MVRDV completed the Idea Factory (previously reported here in REVITALIZATION). This project transformed a former factory building in the Shenzhen urban village of Nantou. That revitalizing project reused and renovated the building, instead of demolishing and rebuilding it.

Now, on January 9, 2023, MVRDV won the competition to design a redevelopment project in the heart of Wuhan, Hubei, China.

The project will produce a beautiful new central library to help revitalize the central business district of the city.

Poised to become one of the largest libraries in China, the 140,000-square-meter project combines traditional and non-traditional functions with diverse study, living room, reading, and studio spaces.

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 its 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.

Each opening addresses a discrete view: the tallest of the three windows faces the CBD’s skyline; a low, wide window offers panoramic views of the park opposite; and a long, curving window embraces the adjacent plaza, offering passers-by a glimpse of the vibrancy inside.

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 programme 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.

Going inside, certain landscape elements come together,” says Jacob van Rijs, founding partner of MVRDV.

There is a series of plateaus that can be used for studying. The biggest one will be for the more popular areas. The higher up you go, the quieter the study and reading spaces will be, serving the needs of visitors,” he continued.

The topography of Wuhan was an important source of inspiration: we have this idea of a horizontal view towards the lakes and on the other hand, we have this more vertical view towards the city with the high rises. This is nature versus the city, and the building is somehow focusing on this. I think this makes it an exciting place to gather,” van Rijs concluded.

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 measurements 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.

Solar panels incorporated into the library’s flowing roof shapes provide the building with renewable energy.

All images courtesy of MVRDV.

See MVRDV website.

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