Schmidt Hammer Lassen - Shanghai Library East, an homage to Chinese culture
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Shanghai Library East, an homage to Chinese culture

Schmidt Hammer Lassen

Culture  /  Completed
Schmidt Hammer Lassen

This library is a building that pays homage to Chinese culture and a landmark that attracts people to explore. In its architecture, interior design, and programming, the library evokes a scholar’s rock in a Chinese garden. A traditional Chinese garden would strategically place rocks as a focus in a garden. The library floating above the trees represents a rock in an urban scale contemporary Chinese garden – and sits on lower pavilions that would be hidden in the trees.

In ancient times, scholars would gather around Taihu stones, deriving inspiration from their edges, curvatures, canyons, and tunnels, which seemed to shift when viewed from different vantage points. Similarly, as visitors move about Shanghai Library East, their views of its interconnecting spaces shapeshift.

The building settled within a green carpet of sustainable greenery punctuated with humanistic social pockets. A playful educational garden adjoins the children’s library allowing children to learn, play and explore within an engaging green setting. The canteen courtyard provides an alfresco dining area that opens up to the canopies of existing mature trees. Atop the pavilions are outdoor landscaped reading rooms with roofs to protect visitors from rain, offering a variety of experiences and programs for individuals, small grounds and informal gatherings for people to retreat to or enjoy social activities overlooking the park. The reading rooms were placed in every direction – facing the park and the city, also to create windows linking visitors to nature and their city.

The building made of high-thermal performance envelopes and recyclable building materials, pays particular attention to embodied emissions. Many of the materials were sourced locally including the glass facade and wood floorings to reduce the carbon produced by the construction. The heating and cooling system integrates solar hot water, photovoltaic power generation and ice-storage cooling, utilizing renewable energy. The recovery of rainwater is achieved with the installation of rainwater storage and roof rainwater reuse systems. Collected and stored rainwater can water the plants through a micro-irrigation system combined with a rainy closing system. The project has achieved China Three Star Energy & Environmental Design Building.

Shanghai Library East’s design is deeply embedded in its context. Inspired by scholars’ rocks in Chinese gardens, the building represents a rock in an urban scale situated by the edge of Shanghai’s largest public park.

The design of Shanghai Library East embraces the idea of ‘collection to connection’—a space to bring people together. Therefore, 80% of the new Shanghai Library East will be accessible to the public, hosting more than 1,200 lectures, seminars, performances, events, and hands-on activities for upward of 4 million visitors annually. This panoply of programs will be facilitated by 115,000 square meters of open, flexible, and interconnected environments.

To meet the needs of the library's diverse functions and future development, the building’s interior is a large open space with a rare 16.8m column span and 6.2m standard floor height and is separated by flexible partitions and movable furniture to form a flexible space.

Local artists were integral to the design process. Their artworks are designed and produced in tandem with the construction of the venue to achieve a sense of symbiosis with the building. Ten contemporary artists from China and abroad created site-specific permanent installations. The works are intended to inspire readers, encourage communication, and celebrate knowledge.

The smart and hybrid Shanghai Library East is a new generation library. The design is people-oriented, open and flexible, environment-friendly and interconnected - it meets all peoples' demands for functions of an epoch-making public library. It is not only a place for storing and lending books, or a reading room, but also an open space for culture and art. Exhibitions, lectures, music, art, experiencing technologies, and even entering the library itself are seen as a kind of "reading."


 Shanghai Library
 library, exhibition, classroom, auditorium, shop, café, office, parking
 115000 mq
 Schmidt Hammer Lassen
 Chris Hardie, Lu Rong, Jing Lin, Simon Persson, Bartek Winnicki, Tasha Feng, Sicong Liu, Michelle Tang , Liang Dong, Xiaoshu He, Xing Meng, Qi Zhao, Zhao Wu, Lanqing Hu, Xuewei Liu, Fangzhou Zhu, Morten Schmidt, Lukasz Truchalski, Trushit Vyas, Steven YN Chen, Morten Nielsen, Sebastiano Cattiodoro, Steven Morten, Tade Godberse, Chao Chen
 RAWVISION Studio, Tian Fangfang, Haha Lu


Schmidt Hammer Lassen (SHL) was founded in Aarhus, Denmark in 1986. The firm is one of Scandinavia’s most recognized and award-winning architectural practices. Working out of studios located in Copenhagen and Shanghai, the firm provides skilled architectural services all over the world, with a distinguished track record as designers of international, high-profile architecture. Cultural and educational buildings, offices, commercial, retail, and residential buildings, often in mixed-use developments and complex urban contexts, are cornerstones of the firm’s output. The practice has extensive global experience in the design of libraries and other public and cultural landmark buildings—including Shanghai East Library in Shanghai, China; Dokk1 in Aarhus, Denmark; and the Halifax Central Library in Halifax, Canada. SHL’s innovative, sustainable, and democratic approach to architecture has attracted global attention, winning more than 100 national and international awards.

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