Beijing City Library officially opens in the city’s emerging sub-center

The Beijing City Library has opened doors for visitors as the world’s largest climatized reading space. It is Snøhetta’s latest innovation in the library typology, thirty-five years after we began work on Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. Reinstating the library’s relevance in the 21st century, we’re proud to introduce a contemporary place for learning, knowledge-sharing, and socializing to Beijing’s rich cultural and intellectual scene.

The new library is located in Tongzhou District, a designated sub-center of Beijing. As one of three new major cultural buildings in this eastern gateway, the Beijing City Library further establishes the area as both a vibrant district in itself and an extension of Beijing’s urban fabric. It anchors the neighborhood’s ambitious masterplan and will help to catalyze its transformation from a relatively undeveloped area into a lively arts and cultural destination.

Throughout the Beijing City Library, there are dedicated spaces for exhibitions, performances, conferences, and the restoration of ancient books. At the heart of the library lies a sweeping, nearly 16-meter-tall welcoming forum off of which rise stepped terraces along smooth, rhythmic curves. The terraced hills create a sculpted interior landform that serves as the ground, seating, and shelving—an informal zone with opportunities to relax, talk, or read quietly, all while staying connected to the larger space. Semi-private reading areas and conference rooms are embedded into the hills, while book stacks and table seating are set on long, flat areas atop.

The project is as much a steward of its environment as of the communities it serves. It rethinks how libraries today can address the pressing climate challenges while incorporating cutting-edge technology to improve visitor experience. The building has achieved China’s GBEL Three Star, the highest attainable sustainability standard in the country, by minimizing both embodied and operational carbon.

Read the full press release here

Photography by: Yumeng Zhu