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Library Wharf

Jun Lyu, Shiyu Yu, Minghao Xu, Peng Peng

Located in a rural area in southeastern China, Library Wharf enjoys abundant natural resources. The villagers live along the rivers and make their living through fishing. Attracted by the rich water systems and thriving fisheries, people gathered along the rivers for residence and trade. Employing local materials and simple techniques, the villagers have constructed a distinctive type of traditional waterside architecture known as the "fish market", which integrates seamlessly with the local environment.

Despite the distance from bustling urban centers, education and cultural heritage are highly valued in this area. It is, in fact, one of the birthplaces of papermaking and boasts a rich history as an early hub of book printing in China. This backdrop has given rise to a unique form of regional cultural institution known as the "academy", which encompasses book collection, knowledge dissemination, and cultural heritage. Historically, the academies served as educational venues with classrooms and scholars, allowing villagers' offspring access to books and knowledge, lending a profound significance to the preservation of literature and books.

However, with modernization, many contemporary buildings replaced the academies and fish markets, and many talented individuals and resources flowed into cities. The academies and fish markets faded into history.

Library Wharf derives its architectural prototype from the form and structure of the fish markets, and its spatial prototype from the academies’ layout. By deconstructing, integrating, and reorganizing the two, the design formed a waterside building that embodied both the exterior traits of the traditional waterside architecture and the inner core of the classic academies. This fusion reconnects modern rural life with traditional culture, granting villagers renewed access to reading and knowledge acquisition.

The main framework and structure of Library Wharf use mortise and tenon wood connections. We sourced materials locally, using wood blocks made of cedar, a regional specialty, as raw material. Where the wood contacts water and underwater mud, metal components are used to strengthen the structure and prolong its life span. The roof adopts a double-layered structure, with the exterior in wooden structure and canvas, and the interior in wooden planks, to enhance air circulation, block direct sunlight, and regulate indoor temperature. The façade combines wood, doors, and glass to form open corridors that allow free circulation.

Internally, we employed the deconstructionism approach to reconfigure and combine the binary elements of an academy (the behavior of reading itself and the reading scenarios) into 16 installations (points). These installations, along with the strategically positioned bookshelves, utilize spatial transparency and subtle guidance to facilitate free circulation within the library. There are numerous entrances in this library – in addition to the main entrance facing the village, there is also a small pier facing the river, allowing access from the water while deepening the connection between boats, fishing, books, and reading. More importantly, the exterior corridors have 54 entrances. Entering through different doors allows views of different installations and bookshelves. The gaps between the bookshelves also reveal glimpses of other installations and shelves. The installations represent different reading scenarios, while the shelves form subtle guidance among different books, spaces, and installations, so people entering through the corridors will have completely different movement experiences and routes. Every reader can embark on their own reading journey and create personalized routes. This gives the space endless possibilities, making the acts of reading and moving between points more engaging.

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