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LiYuan Library

Li Xiaodong Atelier

LiYuan Library
By Caterina Testa -

Over recent decades China has undergone frenetic far-reaching changes. The inflow of investments into the cities has been especially massive, leading to successive waves of demolition and new urban expansion. The little library at LiYuan designed by the Li Xiaodong Atelier has all the appearance of taking a brave stand against this apparently unstoppable headlong dash. Everything about the project, from its programme and position to the materials and distribution circuit, is geared to creating a place of contemplative tranquillity in deliberate defiance of the hectic pace of modern-day China.
The little library is located on the edge of the village of Jiaojiehe, within walking distance for its inhabitants and a couple of hours’ drive from the bustle of Beijing.
From the choice of site onwards, it has been conceived not just as providing a book-lending community service but as offering quiet, highly personal space and moments: after a short walk outside the village, the library visitor can enjoy a period of communing with self and nature.
Everything - materials, colour palette, and construction techniques - are all designed to blend this little construction into its natural surrounds, allowing it to dematerialize to the point of dissolving the point of demarcation between exterior and interior.
The utter simplicity of the parallelepiped structure, mimicking ancient Chinese rural houses built with the few materials nature offered, only apparently foregoes any semblance of architectural design. The irregular wooden sticks creating a filter between inside and out were harvested from nearby woodland. Recalling the firewood collected by the locals and stacked against their houses, they are here held together on a burnished steel frame. The entrance to the reading room is below the natural ground level and reached by a terrace over water that runs right up to the rock on which the whole building stands.
Inside, a series of different...

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