Zikawei Library

  • area / size 200,747 sqft
  • Completed 2022
  • Location Shanghai, China,
  • Wutopia Lab designed the eye-catching and historical space of the Zikawei Library in Shanghai, China.

    With the beginning of 2023, the Zikawei Library, designed by Wutopia Lab for four years, was officially opened. Coming to be the most sensational cultural landmark in Shanghai, it was also the first time that the project was known to the whole city before the official announcement from the studio. Now, this article is more like a summary instead of its unveiling.

    Before it became the Zikawei Library, the building was designed as a bookstore by David Chipperfield Architects. Unfortunately, just after the facade and the structure of the building were completed, the building was left vacant. After two investments of the bookstore had bowed out, this building was eventually designated to be the public library in Zikawei District and named the Zikawei Library.

    The original building has a three-story atrium with a mezzanine on both sides. This classical atrium occupies the center of the central axis. We want to avoid this classical-centered narrative, nor do we want to completely neglect it.

    This narrative structure translates into space, where the 2nd and 3rd layers can be seen as part A and the 4th and 5th layers as part B. As for the outermost façade as the outer skin of the set, the inner set can be expressed independently in design without being influenced by its architectural language. And the treasure on the fifth layer does not constitute a spatial meaning, but it does exist to complete the symbolic meaning of the box set.

    According to Wutopia lab’s dualism strategy, once the two main structures of A and B are sorted out, part A and B can be used as opposing sentences of each other. A, as a packaging set of boxes, can express solidity with concrete, terrazzo and paint. B, as a storaging set box, can express lovingly with the warm wood tone.

    In the A area, it is also necessary to finely distinguish the 2nd and 3rd layers with paving and gray variations and nest smaller boxes in the main functional area as a library. On the second floor, the cafe is a round island, the children’s reading area is a round centralized seating reading area, and on the second floor, a stained glass box taken from the glasswork of Tou-Se-We is embedded as a resting area. On the third floor, the skylight left by DCA combined with lighting is designed as a resting sofa between the 2nd and 3rd layers of boxes.

    In the B section, the mezzanine on both sides of the atrium is designed as an intimate scale reading and display area. This enriches the structure of the nested layers. In order to strengthen the visual, at the junction between the two areas, the flooring and ceiling are made besides, so that the two areas could each form an independent visual expression.

    The B area, where the treasures are collected, exhibits a sacredness. In this regard, the architects borrowed the basilica, a typical spatial type of Catholic churches in the neighborhood of the library, to sanctify the atrium. The atrium ceiling is designed as an arch to complete the symbolic interpretation of the library as a temple of knowledge for people nowadays. The arch-form language is replicated on the first floor to form a continuous spatial expression, further divorcing the interior narrative structure from the facade construction logic to better fit the narrative of the Chinese set box. And because the Tou-Se-We Museum did not end up incorporating the library, we didn’t introduce the pagoda into the atrium. In the end, the decision was made to print a modern design rewritten pagoda in 3D printing as the culmination of the axis. In this way, the Western basilica and the Eastern pagoda, the traditional wooden structure and the modern printing technology as a pair cleverly completed the proposition, combining East and West and blending the ancient and the modern. Thus the symbolic meaning of Zikawei as the source of modern Chinese science is sublimated in the structure of the nested Chinese set of boxes in layers.

    Design: Wutopia Lab
    Project Team: YU Ting, PU Shengrui, LI Mingshuai, KANG Qinghe, JIANG Xueqin, AN An, CHEN Jun, CHEN Shaofen, WANG Jing
    Design Consultation: S5 Design Co.
    Photography: CreatAR Images