Tainan Public Library

The collaborative team of Mecanoo and MAYU Architects has completed a public library in Tainan — Taiwan‘s oldest city. The design references the history of the region, which comprises remnants of maritime trade with Europe from the 17th century, the Chinese Ming dynasty, and Japanese settlements from the beginning of the 20th century. The library is now home to the city’s cultural heritage, modern art, music, films, and over a million books — including more than 16,000 from the Japanese occupation period.

Externally, the most striking feature of Mecanoo and MAYU’s design is the library’s inverted stepped shape with slender columns supporting the cantilevered levels. Below the cantilevers are four sunken patios for outdoor activities such as lectures, concerts, and exhibitions. In this way, the building offers shelter to visitors both inside and outside and creates a smooth transition from exterior and interior.

Meanwhile, the crown of the building is surrounded by vertical aluminum slats with carved flower patterns that are reminiscent of the decorative latticed windows in the old town. These slats filter the light and keep the heat out. The aluminum awnings have been finished in a champagne color, while a linear staggered relief provides additional decorative elements to the façades. After dark, the distinctive elevations are recognizable from afar.

Internally, wood has been used to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The double-height atrium features an installation by Paul Cocksedge that appears to freeze the moment when white sheets of paper are blown away by the wind — symbolizing freedom of thought and the pleasure of reading. Meanwhile, intersecting all levels, a red sculptural staircase adds an another element of intrigue to the geometric building.

Upon entry, visitors are greeted by an arrivals area and a welcome desk. A living room is also included where guests are welcome to read newspapers and magazines. Touchscreens allow visitors to explore the collection, while a self-service point for borrowing books is also found at ground level. The project also features a children’s library and an adjoining patio under the awning for outdoor play. Meanwhile, a spacious study room with its own entrance allows students to study 24 hours a day.

The building’s first floor includes a media library with seating and alcoves to watch movies, along with a library for teenagers with its own lounge. The general collection is found on the level above, while beyond 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 outdoor areas, arranged as roof gardens, as well as three multifunctional spaces for classrooms or workshops and a café.

Offering views across the city, the top of the building contains the theater and conference hall, along with offices for members of staff. The complex has an art gallery, a maker space, and a braille library. there is also a bookshop, so that visitors can not only read books, but also purchase them.

YAKETY YAK Blog, mostly about cool libraries, furniture and design – keeping you abreast of our world. (Source: Design Boom. Images image by Yu-chen chao and Ethan Lee).