Tainan Public Library, combining the local culture and the tropical climate
Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan has remnants of maritime trade with Europe in the 17th century, of the Chinese Ming Dynasty and Japanese settlements from the beginning of the 20th century. The city is rich in temples. The new library takes from this, is inspired by the local culture and has been designed for the tropical climate of Tainan. It is home to the city’s cultural heritage, modern art, music, films and over a million books and of course, is equipped with the latest technologies of a modern library.
Slender columns support the cantilevers of the inverted stepped shape of the library, placed in rhythmical quartets, giving a feeling of weaving your way through a modern bamboo forest. Below the cantilevers are four sunken patios for outdoor activities, with the largest accessible from the square; lectures, concerts and exhibitions can be organized here. The crown of the building is surrounded by vertical aluminium slats with carved flower patterns, reminiscent of the decorative latticed windows in the old town. These slats filter the light and keep the heat out. Above, you can see the special finish of the awnings: champagne-coloured aluminium panels with a linear staggered relief, providing additional decorative elements to the facades. The rational construction of the library allows maximum flexibility, so that the building is prepared for future changes.
Internally, the double-height atrium is inhabited with an art installation. Art is exhibited everywhere in the building, not just to look at but also interactive art to touch and play with. A sculptural staircase adds another playful element to the building, intersecting all levels and visible everywhere through the subtle wooden-slatted flight of stairs. Upon entry, you are greeted by an arrivals area and the welcome desk, a living room is also located here where you can read newspapers and magazines. The ground floor is spacious, transparent and warm due to the wood finish. The children’s library with imaginative bookcases and an adjoining patio under the awning for outdoor play is situated below. This level is also home to a 24/7 spacious study room with its own entrance.
As you make your way to the upper levels of the building, you first encounter a media library with seating and alcoves where you can watch movies, along with a library for teenagers with its own lounge. The general collection is located on the level above this. Beyond there is a floor dedicated to the heritage collection including the Tainan Memorial Exhibition, Japanese Collection Archive and books by Taiwanese authors. There are also four roof garden areas, as well as three multifunctional spaces for classrooms/workshops and a cafe. At the crown of the building, you will find the theatre and conference hall, along with offices for members of staff. From the uppermost levels of the building, a beautiful view of the city through the vertical slats is on display. Furthermore, the building has an art gallery, maker space, bookshop and Braille library.
Cultural Affairs Bureau, Tainan City Government, Taiwan
Mecanoo & MAYU Architects
Francine Houben, Friso van der Steen, Rodrigo Louro, Johan Hanegraaf, Rodrigo Bandini Dos Santos, Yuli Huang
Mecanoo is made up of a highly multidisciplinary staff of creative professionals. The team includes architects, interior designers, urban planners, landscape architects as well as architectural technicians and support staff. Mecanoo has extensive experience designing exceptional buildings which serve client ambitions while creating vibrant end-user spaces. Each project responds to the philosophy of People, Place and Purpose: to the client’s requirements and the user’s needs (People); the physical context, climate and culture (Place); and the current and predicted potential of a building’s function (Purpose). The result is unique solutions for each varying situation, in which the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, landscape and interior combine in a non-traditional way. Preoccupied not by a focus on form, but on process, consultation, context, urban scale and integrated sustainable design strategies, the practice creates culturally significant buildings with a human touch.