Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ Winning Design For the Shanghai Library

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By Jenny Xie / Published by Jenny Xie
The Scandinavian architectural firm wins an international competition to design the Shanghai Library, a glass-and-concrete structure that will appear to float above the trees of Century Park.

After six months and a two-stage process, Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has won an international competition to design the Shanghai Library, a monumental building that will abut the sprawling Century Park in the city’s Pudong District. The 110,000-square-meter library will hover above the treeline in the park, providing a focal point amidst the greenery in a city of 25 million—the most populated in the world. Below the main library structure, two pavilions make up a 1,200-seat event arena and a children’s library, both of which segue into landscaped courtyards and gardens.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ Winning Design For the Shanghai Library - Photo 1 of 7 - The Shanghai Library visually reads like the "central rock within a city-scale Chinese garden," as Chris Hardie describes. Century Park spans over 140 hectares and is the largest park in Shanghai, China.

The Shanghai Library visually reads like the "central rock within a city-scale Chinese garden," as Chris Hardie describes. Century Park spans over 140 hectares and is the largest park in Shanghai, China.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ Winning Design For the Shanghai Library - Photo 2 of 7 - "A modern library is not only a place for the storage and lending of different materials, it is also a place to stay, a place for social interaction, and a place to be inspired and surprised," says partner Morten Schmidt.

"A modern library is not only a place for the storage and lending of different materials, it is also a place to stay, a place for social interaction, and a place to be inspired and surprised," says partner Morten Schmidt.

"We didn’t want to create an atrium that you see as soon as you enter and immediately understand spatially. It’s meant to encourage exploration and serendipity." - Chris Hardie

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ Winning Design For the Shanghai Library - Photo 3 of 7 - Three staggered reading rooms form a grand central atrium, creating intersecting spaces that encourage visitors to explore in a balance between inward and outward focus.

Three staggered reading rooms form a grand central atrium, creating intersecting spaces that encourage visitors to explore in a balance between inward and outward focus.

"The building is deliberately monolithic to stand as an abstract object floating above the tree canopy—and refers to the notion of a central rock in a city-scale Chinese garden," says Schmidt Hammer Lassen partner Chris Hardie. Clad in horizontal bands of clear, insulated, and fritted glass angled to minimize solar glare, the building provides sweeping views for nearly 270 degrees. Inside, a perimeter ring connects the library to its surrounding context of the park and city, and a grand central atrium comprised of staggered reading rooms connects space across different floors. As Hardie explains, "This creates a series of overlapping spaces that only reveal themselves as you pass up through the building—encouraging visitors to explore. We didn’t want to create an atrium that you see as soon as you enter and immediately understand spatially. It’s meant to encourage exploration and serendipity."

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ Winning Design For the Shanghai Library - Photo 4 of 7 - The wooden slats that line the central atrium are of varying transparency: "Some are open, some are semi-open, and some of solid with acoustic insulation in between," says Hardie.

The wooden slats that line the central atrium are of varying transparency: "Some are open, some are semi-open, and some of solid with acoustic insulation in between," says Hardie.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ Winning Design For the Shanghai Library - Photo 5 of 7 - The Shanghai Library will also house the Shanghai Institute of Scientific and Technological Information.

The Shanghai Library will also house the Shanghai Institute of Scientific and Technological Information.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ Winning Design For the Shanghai Library - Photo 6 of 7 - "Schmidt Hammer Lassen are driven by a Scandinavian attitude that focuses on people, context, space, light, and material," says Hardie. "All our projects take these elements as a starting point for a critical design process in our studio."

"Schmidt Hammer Lassen are driven by a Scandinavian attitude that focuses on people, context, space, light, and material," says Hardie. "All our projects take these elements as a starting point for a critical design process in our studio."

Expected to open in 2020, the Shanghai Library joins the Science & Technology Museum and the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center to form three institutions on Century Avenue, which runs between Century Park and Shanghai’s iconic business district. Says Hardie, "We are excited about the project as a whole and how we can develop it further alongside our client team in the coming months."

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ Winning Design For the Shanghai Library - Photo 7 of 7 - Concurrently, Schmidt Hammer Lassen is at work on the New Central Library for Ningbo in East China; a renovation of the Victoria State Library in Melbourne, Australia; and a new Central Library in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Concurrently, Schmidt Hammer Lassen is at work on the New Central Library for Ningbo in East China; a renovation of the Victoria State Library in Melbourne, Australia; and a new Central Library in Christchurch, New Zealand.