Student(s): Shangyu Tian
Course: ARCH 4410: Architectural Design V
Term: Autumn 2015

My London Public Library design imagines this new public institution as a collection of buildings within a building. The exterior shape of the project is a simple box that is sized to mimic the context:  the scale of nearby buildings and the London City grid at the project site. Despite this simple exterior within the box are eight unique buildings that are placed side by side and one on top of another.  This collection supports the various functions of the library in an interior urban ensemble that creates experiences within each fragment as well as through and across the in-between space that separates them. This in-between space also provides circulation, ventilation and brings light deep into the project’s interior.


My project is also a collection of spherical shells.  These shells organize the spaces within each interior building by subdividing them and providing memorable spaces both inside and around spherical rooms.  From building to building the spheres change in number, scale, configuration and color; however, through their repetition, a recognizable yet ever shifting spatial character is shared by all parts of the interior. The spheres are always incomplete and used as geometric fragments that work with the building’s floor slabs and vertical glass surfaces.  Sometimes these fragments partition space into singular spherical rooms—like in the café—and at other moments many fragments are used to create sequenced paths that lead people through space. In my design, the colorful spherical geometric configurations work similarly to Bernard Tschumi’s red follies at the Parc de la Villette in Paris where each new folly encountered by the visitor is unique but also refers to the entire collection. The spheres of the library share this individual yet collective character. Beyond this, the spheres also create many spatial relationships between the eight interior buildings, allowing them to work together at critical moments in project. For example, to mark the main entrance, an extra-large plaza-sized room is created with a spherical surface that moves across two buildings. 


The program for the new public library is large—about twice the size of Knowlton Hall—and many of the programmatic elements are similar in type.  By dividing the project into eight smaller buildings, each programmatic zone is given a distinct identity within the ensemble; however, a specific program type is not located exclusively within one interior chunk. The programs of the library move between the interior buildings and are given distinct identities within them.  These identities provide the project’s repetitive programs with a range of different experiences.


Although most of the interior buildings are given a unique layout of rooms using spherical shell geometry, there is also one important anomaly; one of the interior buildings has been designed without spheres and has no sense of closed volume. This central fragment is full of tilted floors and it interacts more freely with the other interior chunks in terms of circulation. It helps organize the largest public spaces of the building and allows visitors to experience the exteriors of the other seven interior buildings, and it connects similar program types across the various chunks.



Finally, in addition to varying the scale and organization of each interior building, each one is given a vivid color. Different colors are applied arbitrarily to similar program types, allowing visitors to distribute themselves within the project’s repetitive programs according to their moods and preferences.  Media is distributed evenly throughout the building as are spaces for browsing and reading. Visitors are encouraged to wander through the design to discover the zones that most suit their needs on any given visit.  In this way my library’s use of color is a chromatic array that reinforces the building’s many collections; its collection of interior buildings, of spherical rooms, of media and of visitors. Simple on the outside, project allows the city to unfold inside as a colorful collection of interior urban events.