Library spaces we love: The National Library of China

Today’s post come from ILN’s Country Coordinator for China, Dave Lyons.

Photo: "National Library of China" CC by Yeshan

Photo: “National Library of China” CC by Yeshan

National Geographic recently featured a great photo of the National Library in Beijing.

Why do you like this library and what are some of your favourite features?

It’s a nice space – I actually shot a quick video with my phone there (hence the poor sound quality, plus I had to keep my voice down) to introduce a paper for an International Librarianship course during my MLIS program at Rutgers. According to the architects, it’s the third largest library in the world.

Some features I like:

  • If you are a Chinese citizen, there are machines that dispense library cards if you have your national ID.
  • They have a very liberal and affordable photocopying service in the foreign language section (no page limits).
  • The main atrium, despite or perhaps because of its powerful acoustics, is a surprisingly quiet place in a noisy city.
  • The designers intentionally gave it a moat. Moats deserve to make a comeback in modern architecture.

More images available at ArchDaily and KSP Jürgen Engel Architekten. 

If you could ask the designers of this space any question, what would it be? 

  • How did you approach issues of silence and acoustics, especially since the building is dominated by a huge echo chamber?
  • Did you approach the building as a replacement or a complement to the old library building, which continues to be closed for renovation?
  • What creature did you hope to place in the moat?
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