The task was to extend the existing library by 77.000 m² in order to accommodate approximately 12 million books, some 12,000people per day visit the National Library. An important future-oriented part of the extension of the existing library is the “Digital Library”.
Unparalleled in its historical and cultural significance, the “Si Ku Quan Shu” collection is also housed in the new building. The Si Ku Quan Shu is the collection of manuscripts, produced on the orders of Chinese Emperor Ch’ein Lung (1736 – 1795) of the Ch’ing dynasty (1644 – 1912). During his reign he had made copies of all documents relating to Chinese culture, effectively preserving for the modern age this valuable wealth of knowledge spanning thousands of years.
The KSP Jürgen Engel Architekten design is based on this collection, which is
housed in the building’s base. Located around the base on several levels, recalling archaeological layers of culture is the large space containing the contemporary library with reading rooms, reference works and a reference library. Above this on the top floor, under a roof that seems almost to float, is the digital library – synonym for the future, global communication and networking. This simple symbolism of linking together past, present and future, as inter-reliant and simultaneously merging elements, lends the design cogency.
The enormous rectangular building ensemble, measuring 90 by 119 meters, is horizontally organized and developed. The library is surrounded by an austerely laid-out garden, which serves to further underline the building’s well-defined appearance. It is through the garden and a geometrically arranged grove at the entrance to the library that the visitor approaches the building. The entry to the library is via broad steps set between two lower building sections, which lead into the third story. From here the visitor has a view out over the entire library and into the extensive steel structure spanning the roof. This structure rests on the base at six points, and these support the roof while leaving the remainder of the large space open. The various levels merge into each other; rows of books alternate with reading areas, stairs and escalators provide access to the various stories; it is possible to look into the digital library on the top floor. There is daylight everywhere and the inward-looking focus typical of most libraries has been deliberately avoided.
As the center and core of the library, the glazed vault for the Si Ku Quan Shu collection of China’s written cultural heritage, bound in wooden panels, is always visible and transparent. Looking at the library from outside, the upper two stories have the appearance of a large book with gently rounded contours, held by slanting supports, which towers over the stories below.