The SourceCivil Engineering MagazineSlideshow: Shanghai school ‘village’ welcomes library, theaters

Slideshow: Shanghai school ‘village’ welcomes library, theaters

By Catherine A. Cardno, Ph.D.

  • exterior of a large blue building with porthole windows and a slanted roof
  • a large open, two-story lobby accessed by a bank of glass doors
  • a large circular reading room with a oculus in the ceiling
  • a look up at a oculus in the ceiling of a wood-paneled library with many books
  • five terraced levels of low bookshelves facing long wooden desks, drenched in natural light
  • looking down a hallway with terraced bookshelves to the right, and a sunken rooftop deck area outside tall glass windows
  • a large open room with wooden cafe tables and chairs and a white stairway accessing an upper balcony
  • standing on a stage, looking at an auditorium of terraced blue seats
  • a close look at a small exterior porthole window next in an auditorium

The new library and theater designed for the new Qingpu Pinghe International School in Shanghai has opened. Dubbed the “Bibliotheater,” the 5,372 sq m building, designed by Beijing-based OPEN Architecture, combines an expansive library, a generous 500-seat auditorium-style theater, and a cozy 150-seat black box theater into one aesthetically playful building.

The silhouette of the building has been likened to both a blue whale and an ocean liner, according to the architects. Its slanted roof with spiky skylights, exterior porthole-like circular windows, and a vibrant blue color are intended to capture the eyes of passersby and leave a strong impression. The architects hope that the building’s lines will both cultivate students’ interests in reading and performing and encourage their imagination to roam free in the “ocean of knowledge.”

The school has been designed to resemble a village, with a variety of dedicated, unique structures. “When we were given the extensive and jumbled-together program of a new school for 2,000 students aged from 3 to 18 years, the immediate reaction was how dreadful it would be for a kid spending these many years fixed in one building,” the architects explain in press material about the building. With the villagelike campus design, “we decided to break away from the current trend of school-as-megastructure,” the architects say.

The architects joined together the library and theaters in one building because, they explain, the acts of deep reading, thinking, and expressing oneself through performances are critical components of education that are often ignored in test-driven educational systems.

Both theater spaces have been placed at ground level to keep them, as much as possible, away from natural light and to isolate them acoustically. They are accessed by a bank of doors located in a dramatic cutaway at the front edge of the building. A cafe in the space also offers a location for parents to read and socialize as they wait for their children.

The library has been placed in the daylit upper part of the building. A central reading area with a dropped-down oculus that filters daylight entering the room forms the nexus of the library. Around this, a terraced loop of reading spaces rise and drop in elevation according to the varying heights of the theater volumes below them, the architects say. These smaller spaces have been designed to create zones for individual age groups at the school. A rooftop sunken garden provides an outdoor reading area in nice weather.

The Bibliotheater is sited near the campus’s secondary entrance, so that it may be used by the surrounding communities without affecting campus operations. This siting was done with the hope that building “will become the social energizer that brings together parents and community members,” according to the architects.

Project credits:

Client Shanghai Tixue Education and Technology Co. Ltd.

Architecture and interior design OPEN Architecture

Local design institute Shanghai Yuangou Architects and Consultants

Structural and mechanical, engineering, and plumbing consultant CABR Technology Co. Ltd.

Curtain wall consultant CABR Technology Co. Ltd.

Theater/acoustic consultant Shanghai Net Culture Development Co. Ltd.

Lighting consultant Shanghai Modern Architecture Decoration Environmental Design Research Institute Co. Ltd.

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