Designing the Beijing Sub-Library as a knowledge forest

Designing the Beijing Sub-Library as a knowledge forest,

The Norwegian practice Snøhetta set out to build the Beijing Sub-Library,

which features a ginkgo-like forest canopy that supports a 16-meter-high glass façade in Beijing.

The project will be a contemporary and timeless space for learning,

knowledge exchange and open discussions, as well as a celebration of the cultural richness of Beijing and China in general.

The structure is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2022, and once the Beijing Sub-Center Library is completed,

it will be the first self-supporting glass façade project in China.

After winning an international design competition in 2018,

Snøhetta was commissioned to design the new branch center library in the Chinese capital,

and developed the architectural, landscape and interior design in partnership with a local partner, ECADI.



Design features and objectives

Snøhetta’s new design aims to introduce new standards for sustainable library design, challenging traditional library typologies.

This will be done through the use of advanced technology, smart design and local resources,

and it is expected that the library of the Beijing Sub-Center will become completely different from traditional libraries.

The sculpted ceiling and 16-meter-high glass façade are the main design elements of the project,

which define the library’s overall aesthetic and function as it opens its doors to the public.

The library was designed and built to celebrate a public space for learning, information exchange,

and open discussion, as well as to celebrate Beijing’s rich cultural heritage and history in science, art, and performance.

This is further emphasized by the creation of a common space as the center of the library,

highlighted by a prominent sculptural educational scene that covers and permeates the entire library.

Designing the Beijing Sub-Library as a knowledge forest

The team designed a large open space in the heart of the library,

with the aim of bringing people together, both spatially and intellectually.

The design incorporates large, topographical-like reading platforms that are fully visible from the outside, enhancing distribution and access to knowledge.

The design creates a distinctly different experience from traditional departments in libraries.

Thanks to the library’s openness and amphitheater-like structure, it gives visitors of all ages the opportunity to meet and interact on one rooftop.

Similar open spaces are designed to enhance interaction, and knowledge sharing can be found in various locations throughout the entire building.

It also opens the library itself and its internal activities to passersby, inviting them to this generous space,

enhancing the transparency of the library façade.

The central valley on the inside of the building, forms the backbone of the library,

and besides being a major circulation space from the north side of the building to the south side,

it connects people to all related spaces above and below the reading scene.



Beijing Sub library “Forest of Knowledge”

The tree-like columns that support the roof are another important feature of the building,

creating a canopy resembling a ginkgo forest.

Besides its visual aesthetic appeal, each tree pole contains a technological component,

resulting in a distributed technology system, dealing with climate control, lighting, acoustic comfort and rainwater disposal.

The landscaped areas with a tree-like environment invite people to sit down and take a break at any time in their journey through the building.

The Beijing Sub-Center Library aims to set a new standard for future library design in many aspects,

from building and enclosure technology, social and environmental sustainability, to public ownership in cultural spaces.



Designing the Beijing Sub-Library as a knowledge forest

Snøhetta and its partners strive to meet the highest possible standards when it comes to sustainability.

It created a special roof that supports Building Elements Photovoltaic (BIPV),

which replaces traditional roofing and façade materials,

using the surface’s primary exposure to sunlight to produce renewable energy and create one of the most environmentally friendly roofs possible.

The roof also has a protrusion to reduce solar gain, the team reduced the height of the glass on the east-

west facing walls and added an active sun shade facing the south and west façade.

The glass is made from a low-E performance insulated glass unit.

The design team used locally sourced modular materials and components with a logical structural grid to reduce the need for customization for both the columns and the roof.


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