A project fusing the traditional building culture of southern China and the modernity of its activities, the New Rui'an Library has produced a Temple of the Mind in contemporary and contextual architecture.
Rui'an, located on the south-eastern coast of Zhejiang Province, is a city of historical and cultural renown in China. The design of the Rui'an Library draws its inspiration from reflections on the Xinlan Classical Academy (Xinlan Bookyard), one of the first libraries in China, on the Yuhai Pavilion, a famous, long-standing, book pavilion in Rui'an, and the traditional printing techniques of Chinese characters. It blends into a landscape environment with exceptional features on the shores of a lake.
The waterfront culture and the classical garden concepts of southern China form an important source of inspiration in the design of the project, intended as a “garden library” within an ecological green space. The plan included the construction of a library and reading room open 24 hours a day, a coffee bar, public event areas and an academic auditorium.
The entrance lies opposite the main road, facing the Rui'an town center. Readers enter the lobby through colonnades that create a progressive entry sequence. The building’s roofs of varying heights create subtle plays of light and shadow. The main reading lounge is located in the western wing of the building and offers generous views of the lake. The main colors of the building – a monochrome of gray and white – reflect a vision of the old white-walled and black-tiled towns of southern China. Inspired by the surrounding bamboo forest and the story of the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove” from the Chinese Weijin period, the building’s façade is decorated with colonnades, adapted for the characteristics of the southern climate. This arrangement creates a semi-outdoor space where readers can rest and exchange ideas. Metal curtains between the columns recreate traditional bamboo curtains and play a major role in adjusting the lighting of the façade. Built according to the traditional Chinese roof design, the curved metal roofs outline a magnificent skyline. Winding around a central patio, the building's mass is split into several smaller units, forming a cohesive group of connected structures at human scale. The new library of Rui'an is a fusion of traditional culture and modern architectural language, a lasting Temple of the Mind in the transient context of Rui'an's new times.