Shanghai Library East, one of the world’s largest libraries, opens its doors to the public. It offers a public art program curated by UAP (Urban Art Projects), and features 10 site-specific permanent commissions by leading Chinese and international artists. The artworks are installed across different locations within the 115,000 square metre library designed by the renowned Schmidt Hammer Lassen(SHL) Architects, creating a unique and engaging cultural experience for local and global visitors. A center for art, culture and technology driven learning, the library is set to be a new cultural destination that pushes the boundaries between learning and leisure, drives the sharing of knowledge, deepens connections between people and inspires generations to come.
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A Public Art Program Inspired by The Evolution of Text
Public art is an integral part of urban cultural planning, it highlights a city’s unique character and shapes its cultural branding, bringing vital energy to the city and its dwellers. It is also one of the most effective ways to promote the popularisation of art, stimulate human interaction and communication while providing aesthetic enjoyment.
Jade and stone were the most important carriers of writing before the invention of paper. Shanghai—born artist Gu Wenda pays tribute to Shanghai Library East with his iconic Confucian stones where two of them are inscribed with “High Mountain” (gāoshān) and “Looking Up” (yǎngzhǐ) and stand in the Knowledge Square at the main entrance, facing each other. Combined, they create a Chinese idiom that means to behold a great mountain, or other admirable figure of greatness, and pay homage to both the grandeur of civilisation and humility of the visitor.
Shanghai Artist Shen Fan shares: ”As a Shanghai native, I am honoured to participate in such a meaningful project for my hometown. Libraries are essential public facilities in a city. Shanghai Library East has world-class architectural design, also provides a welcoming and inspiring environment through the stellar array of public artworks. The extraordinary atrium space brings both possibilities and challenges to my work, and I hope that between the lines of Passing of the Seasons, readers find the joy of art as well as reading.”
An Architectural Design Anchored in Classical Chinese Scholarship
The architectural design of Shanghai Library East by SHL alludes to classical Chinese scholarship and anchors it in tradition: it evokes a scholar’s rock in a Chinese garden: a polyhedral stone enveloped in an emerald tree canopy; a naturally occurring network of interconnected interior spaces; a wellspring of knowledge, inquiry, and discovery.
Chris Hardie, Design Director and Chief Architect for SHL says, “This important cultural center for the citizens of Shanghai embraces the idea of ‘collection to connection’ – a space to bring people together. It’s the city’s gift to them.”
The library’s exterior pays homage to printed literature through an even subtler symbolism. An abstract motif depicting 15 photographs of marble swirls “printed” onto the façade’s glass panels represents the library’s “cover.” Arranged in horizontal bands of varying transparency, these etched panels allow light to penetrate deep into the building, illuminating the space — and, like a good book, enlightening the mind. On the main level, a grand central atrium of bamboo, oak, and terrazzo welcomes guests into a vast yet warm and inviting atmosphere, embarking on a visual and intellectual journey of joy and enlightenment.