Amidst dunegrass, dull green fading gray, a sturdy complex of concrete faces the sea. Approach from the beach or from ship’s view and the concrete softens at night with a glowing expanse of glass. The texture and tone of the concrete might fool the eye into thinking it a castle of sand, a gray model against the sea. Rather, China’s Vector Architects sought to craft a stage - “like a weathered rock” - whose every part is carefully designed to allow the best experience of light and shadow.
Concrete - not blocky - but sculpted, formed to the purpose. You can feel the play of light with the shape of the building: it erupts (the bright white reflection of light from the sea) and fans out on the interior, while direct sunlight cuts golden bars across the wooden floor. Each opening serves to bring light in to the visitor, to develop the “spiritual linkage between each individual and the sea.” Step within and your attention is drawn without. Here, a tripartite wall of glass provides an ingenious mix of aesthetics and utility. The top third is a hand-crafted wall of molded glass bricks, allowing light to pass through its smoky filter. Directly below is an uninterrupted expanse of glass, a window from wall-to-wall to allow reflective readers a pure glimpse of the sea. At ground level are six wood-trimmed pivot walls, to open in good weather and bring in a fresh breeze.
Amongst the requisite fare of libraries - long reading tables with grid-like lamps, and lots of mobile seating options - the library also offers an activity room, drinking bar, and meditation space (though you wonder at the actual sound absorption of so much concrete on the interior). The shelves themselves are bite-sized - this is no librarian’s maze - and instead the focus is turned towards the comfort and enjoyment of reading and reflection. Above the laminated bamboo floor, the same wood panels are etched in relief in the concrete, mirrored in the ceiling and walls. Restrained black banisters create contrast against the wood of the interior, sprouting up into martini-glass lamps to spread an ambient glow. For the final effect, tiny round skylights (portholes to the sky?) allow sun to cut through shafts in the ceiling, dappling the floors with afternoon’s amber light.
Photography Credits: Su Shengliang, Xia Zhi, He Bin, and Sun Dongping