In China, a Library Doubles as an Earthquake Memorial

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By William Lamb / Published by Dwell
In Yunnan Province, a library and community center is a cornerstone of a rebuilding effort.

In September 2012, a series of earthquakes shook Yunnan Province, China, killing 80 people and injuring more than 700. More than 6,600 homes were destroyed and another 430,000 were damaged.

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The Pinch, a library and community center in Shuanghe Village, Yunnan Province, China, is notable for a series of trusses that drop down from the ceiling to double as a set of suspended bookshelves.

Most of the houses in Shuanghe Village were wiped out, leaving the survivors to find shelter in tents for the better part of a year. Eventually, the Chinese government intervened with a building program that erected new concrete and brick houses arranged around a large central plaza.

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The building serves as a bridge between the heart of the village, set atop a 13-foot-retaining wall, and a memorial plaza below.

The University of Hong Kong decided to sponsor the design of a new library building and community center for the empty plaza to serve as a learning center, public gathering spot, and memorial to those who lost their lives in the earthquake.

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The roof doubles as a gently-sloping play surface.

Olivier Ottevaere and John Lin, who teach in the university’s architecture department, teamed up on the design for the building, which they dubbed The Pinch. Working in collaboration with a local timber company, they devised a deceptively simple structure that responds to the shape of the valley in which it is situated. The site is set against a 13-foot retaining wall, and the library building straddles the different levels, serving as a bridge between the rebuilt village and the memorial plaza.

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The wood for the structure, including the trusses, came from a local timber company.

The library building itself is notable for a series of trusses that extend down from the roof to create a floating bookshelf.

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The building doubles as a community center and a memorial to the more than 80 people who were killed when a series of earthquakes struck Yunnan Province in 2012.

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The library as seen from atop the 13-foot retaining wall.

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The building appears to glow from within when illuminated at night.