The SourceCivil Engineering MagazineSlideshow: Stepped, inverted library with sunken patios completed in Taiwan

Slideshow: Stepped, inverted library with sunken patios completed in Taiwan

By Catherine A. Cardno, Ph.D.

  • The exterior of a four story building that looks like an inverted celebratory tiered cake, lite from within and glowing in the evening air
  • a close look at the corner of a building, glowing from within at night, with delicate columns and facade detailing
  • close look at the pattern in the building's facade
  • a double height atrium clad in wood, with an art installation that looks like pieces of white paper blowing in the wind
  • a bold yellow level overlooking the atrium below
  • a striking red, open-air interior stairway with a person walking on the landing
  • exterior columns descend to a sunken patio while children run by on a protected walkway
  • a four story building where each story has a progressively larger footprint; delicate columns support the upper stories

The striking inverted steps of the newly constructed Tainan Public Library in Taiwan immediately capture the eye from a distance. Designed by Netherlands-based architecture firm Mecanoo with Taiwan-based MAYU architects, construction on the building finished in 2020. It is slated to open this year.

The 37,000 sq m library’s four cantilevering, inverted steps are supported by clusters of slender, white columns, designed to give visitors the feeling that they are weaving their way through a modern bamboo forest, according to the architects. The cantilevers create shaded, covered areas for outdoor activities such as lectures, concerts, and exhibitions that will be able to be held in the library’s four sunken patios or its adjacent open-air public square. Rooftop gardens grace the top of the building.

The building’s crown is clad in vertical aluminum slats decorated with carved flowers to pay homage to the decorative latticed windows that can be found in the city’s old town area. These slats filter light, protect the library interiors from solar gain, and when backlit from within at night, offer a visually arresting decorative facade. Champagne-colored aluminum panels finish the underside of the cantilevers, providing additional decorative elements to the design, according to the architects.

Inside the library, visitors are greeted by a double-height atrium that hosts an art installation of seemingly white sheets of paper being blown in the wind, designed by London-based artist Paul Cocksedge. A so-called living room with newspapers and magazines is available at this level, as is a children’s library linked to an outdoor play area and a dedicated study room with 130 seats and separate entrance that can be used by students 24/7. A bold, geometric open stairway enables visitors to climb to the building’s upper levels while enjoying views of the building’s interior.

In addition to containing more than a million books combined in its children’s, young adult, multimedia, Braille, and general collections, the building will include a 324-seat theater, conference rooms, offices, and multipurpose rooms. It will also offer a cafe, a makerspace, a bookshop, an archive, exhibition space for modern art and heritage items, and a parking garage.

Project credits:

Client Cultural Affairs Bureau, Tainan City Government, Taiwan

Project team Mecanoo and MAYU Architects

Construction Envision Engineering Consultants

Installation adviser Frontier Tech Institute of Engineering Design & Consultant

Wayfinding Path & Landforms

Contractor Fu Tsu Construction, Shing Tai Hydro-Power Engineering

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