PDF: Competition Booklet
Here a competition I did for a library on the new Minzu University Campus in Beijing. Because of it’s location on the site as well as being in Beijing, the library had to create a monumental feeling despite the fact that the height of 24m could not be surpassed. I must admit, the building pushed my limits a bit as we only had 4 weeks for designing.
1. Site Description
The location of the new Beijing Minzu University library is right at the end of two important axes. One is a main road coming from the north, and the other one is the raised pedestrian walkway coming from the south. The lake on the south-west side of the plot improves the quality of the site by inserting nature into the site, if connected properly.
2. Project Overview
The Beijing Minzu University Library has a total area of 33’168m2. Other than the library, the building, also contains the university computer center and Self-Study Classrooms for the students. It, therefore, will provide services to public visitors, students and staff. Furthermore, the multi-function-auditorium on the ground floor provides seating for 260 people. All in all, the building can take up as many as 4’000 people while it has stacks for 2’000’000 books. The estimated construction cost is 146’070’000RMB.
3. Design Concept
The shape of the building is, to a certain degree, a derivation of its environment. The curved shape of the building follows the curve of the road and makes good use of the site. The round cut-outs of the building react to the two main axes from north and south, as well as a minor one from the north-east, embracing the people nearing the building.
A library serves a great amount of people which means that a good function/circulation layout is crucial. Generally, the functions are laid-out horizontally to simplify book transport. The vertical layout is just as important, however. The functions with the least visitors are at the top while the ones with the most visitors are located at the bottom. This greatly reliefs the vertical circulation elements and ensures fluent movement throughout the building. Additional attention was given to the creation of a public, vertical circulation system including several open staircases and pathways.
The building is relatively flat and deep due to the required amount of square meters and the maximum building height of 24 meters. For this reason we added courtyards to bring in more natural light and ventilation. Direct sunlight, however, is treated with a lot of caution because of its damaging effects on books. That is why the facade has horizontal fins which are organized in a wave-like pattern, opening and closing depending on the interior usage.
Roads almost entirely encircle the building, continuing even towards the south below the raised walkway. Not wanting to destroy the impressive front of the north facade, we located the car parking towards the south where it is partly hidden by the raised walkway. Looking from the north, the whole building is elevated by 2 meters. This is to compensate the natural height difference of the the site and to emphasize the monumental front of the building. There are four public squares indicating four main entrances (one of them being on the raised walkway). Since all the entrances have been reduced to four locations, the rest of the site can be organized in a park-like manner. Most of it is grass and trees, only to be occasionally cut by small pathways. Thus, creating a lively and comfortable environment for the library.
5. Architectural Design
Generally, we tried to arrange the program so that the functions which have many visitors, like the offices and the literal books stacks, are on the lower floors while functions with less visitors, like ancient books stacks or reserved copy stacks are on the higher floors. This greatly relieves the circulation of the building.
One could say that the building is functionally divided into the three following parts:
A.The Self-Study Classrooms:
They are located towards the west, as close to the student dormitories as possible. The class rooms are organized on two levels with open staircases connecting them so that the doors to the public library can be locked while the classrooms still stay accessible for the students after the library opening hours.
B. The Computer Center/ Misc. Offices
Similar as the classrooms, the computer center and the library offices are located on east side of the building, as close to the staff buildings and the campus parking lots as possible. They are spread out over two floors, as well, and could also be run separately to the public library, if desired.
C. Public Library
For the layout of the library functions we strove to keep the individual functions on the same level. With a large library, like this, book transport becomes a large task. Wherefore, it is important to keep the pathways on one level to reduce unnecessary traffic.
The underground is kept small. It contains only the mechanical rooms and the book storage. We moved the book storage to the underground for structural reasons, but also because of the more favorable climate for books.
Special attention was given to the public circulation of this building to ensure a smooth flow throughout the building. It all starts with the entrances which are designated to their functions. Because of the raised walkway, it is save to assume that a large part of the visitors will enter from the second floor. Hence, we raised the main entrance lobby to the second floor. The lobby can also be accessed from the north side with a large staircase which, besides being functional, adds to the monumental image of the building. The large lobby space contains a system of staircases, bridges and elevators which act as the main vertical public circulation. This space subdivides the volume into two wings of which each has its own courtyard with an additional system of bridges and stairs in it. Still not satisfied with the circulation, we added, yet another, open staircase on each end of the building. Thus, creating a solid circulation capable of ensuring a smooth flow throughout the public part of the library.
Four additional entrances of importance are on the ground floor level. The north entrance for the auditorium, the south entrance mainly for new books, the west entrance for the self-study classrooms and the east entrance for the computer center. Each the computer center and the self-study classrooms have their individual small lobby with separate staircases enabling them, though connected to the library, to operate as separate entities. Lastly, the south entrance is located close to the road which makes loading and unloading of books very convenient. After the books are unloaded and edited (editing offices are also located right next to the entrance), the books can be transported to the two freight elevators to be moved up to their destination in the library.
Since the library is a public building intended for a large number of people, it includes many large open spaces. Be it the entrance lobby with a room height of 19 meters or book stacks with several thousand square meters, the spaces of the public library are very generous.
The building is designed so that it can be built with a common concrete structure. The vertical curve of the building can structurally be solved with inclined columns. In order to span the large entrance hall without having visible columns, a steel truss system will be necessary. Hidden columns inside the central elevator shaft will reduce the size and cost of the afore mentioned. These measures taken, we can now use a structural glazing system as the window structure in order to have a facade which will appear to be almost entirely out of glass.
The foot-print of the library is derived from the shape of the plot. It follows the road on the north and encircles the pedestrian walkway on the south. Furthermore, we have added circular “cuts” into the building which embrace all the axes leading towards the building. The roof still continues over the cuts, though, which then create a protective, exterior roof over the main entrances.
The two ends (east/west) are shaped to keep a similar language as the afore mentioned cuts. The shape also emphasizes the view of the west side over the lake while the east side builds up a connection with the bordering museum.
To create a connection with the Chinese environment we tried to shape the building in a way that somehow imitates the floating movement of a traditional Chinese roof.
The facade is composed of glass and aluminum panels. The aluminum panels will retain their original color, and therefore shine in a light gray metallic color. The horizontal fins, also made of aluminum, are mat-white so that a big part of the sunlight hitting the fins will enter the building as diffuse, less aggressive light.
One of our main concern, while developing the facade, was that direct sunlight is heavily destructive for books. We didn’t want to put all our trust on UV filters as their longevity can’t be guaranteed in this case nor their proper maintenance. Logically, we couldn’t just close the facade to protect the books because people still need natural light for reading. Hence, we came up with a facade system which opens up and closes according to the interior function. The facade is made of metal fins which move along the facade in a wave-like manner. The glass, behind the fins, follows this movement which makes it open in certain areas and close in others. Wherever there are reading areas or functions which require natural lights, the facade is open while the book stacks are safe behind the denser parts. The act of adding fins to the facade greatly increases the efficiency of this action.
The two ends of the building are covered with regular vertical fins. As the sun rises/sets, it shines from a very low angle, wherefore, horizontal fins wouldn’t be very effective. Especially with the curved shape of the building’s east/west ends, horizontal fins are more practical.
6. Facts and Figures
Gross Area: 33’168m2
Ungerground Area: 2’000m2
Above Ground Area: 31’168m2
1st Floor Area: 6’552m2
Floor Area Ratio: 1.4
Green Area Ratio: 25%
Building Density: 30%
Amount of Books: 2’000’000
Amount of Seats: 4’000
Parking Spaces: 39
Estimated Cost: 146’070’000RMB
7. Function List
- Basement (Height 4m, Area 2’000m)
Functions: Book Storage, Mechanical Rooms
- Ground Floor (Height 4.8m, Area 6’633m2)
Functions: Self-Study Classrooms, Misc. Office, Computer Center, Book Editing
- 2nd Floor (Height 4.8m, Area 6989m2)
Functions: Self-Study Classrooms, Misc. Office, Computer Center, Entrance, Cafe, E-book Reading Area, Thesis Storage, Academic Library
- 3rd Floor (Height 4.8m, Area 5925m2)
Functions: Literate Books Stacks, Research Rooms, Cafe
- 4th Floor (Height 4.8m, Area 5803m2)
Functions: Periodical Stacks and Reading, Foreign Language Books Stacks, Foreign Nations Books Stacks, Researching Rooms
- 5th Floor (Height 4.5m, Area 5818m2)
Functions: Reserved Copy Stacks, Science Book Stacks, Ancient Books Display and Storage, Researching Rooms