Shanghai Children's Library

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Shanghai Children's Library

How do kids learn best today? Is it in large groups or in quiet solitude? Is it through reading and writing, or through active play and the making of things?The truth is that each of these answers is correct, and that a 21st century children’s library must not only provide for these diverse opportunities and spaces, it must also provide the flexibility to support future methods of learning we cannot yet even imagine today.

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1742 Scl Aerial View From The Northwest

The Shanghai Children’s Library is the first step in a larger comprehensive plan that merges architecture and landscape to create a visionary indoor-outdoor learning environment — a “Reading Park”.  Building upon the library design’s merging of building and landscape, this master plan envisions strategic, episodic updates, additions, and revisions that catalyze the park’s existing potential as a public space, learning environment, and teaching tool.  

All too often, buildings built within park landscapes turn their back on their surroundings, taking up valuable space, but giving nothing back to the community and the park in which it is built.  This project merges architectural and landscape design ideas to create a holistic approach that merges interior and exterior space, blurring the edges of the traditional library to create a larger vision of a Reading Park and Learning Landscape — creating a “win-win” for both the library and the park’s existing community.

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In order to break down the overall scale of the building and to help merge the building’s programs with the surrounding landscape, our design envisions three primary architectural gestures: the “Magic Box,” the “Green Garden,” and the resultant “Public Porch” in between them.

The design’s main upper volume appears as a great wood puzzle in the midst of being unlocked.  Its wood and glazed terracotta panels offer constantly changing textures as one moves around the building and as the sunlight tracks across its surfaces.  Its roof supports a safe outdoor learning terrace and planted roof scape which is articulated by the building’s grid of skylights.  The bottom of the Magic Box acts as the buildings fifth façade and a protective canopy for the many public and shared learning spaces below.  Here, a continuous surface displays at a grand, public scale the artwork generated by the library’s young visitors in its learning spaces.  Together with the upper volume’s facades, the Magic Box creates a cultural beacon glowing in the park landscape.

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1742 Scl Interior Publicpath Final

Creation, Exhibition & “Shared Joy” Spaces
The Creation, Exhibition, and Shared Joy Spaces of the program occupy the first and second floors of the building, activating both the Library’s street fronts as well as its park-facing public porch space.  Designed for collective, collaborative learning environments, these spaces support a variety of activites, ranging from maker spaces, to active-play learning environments, to cultural exchange and discussion spaces, to public exhibition and auditorium uses.  

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“Happy Learning Space”
The third and fourth floors of the building are reserved for the quieter programs of the library.  Most of these floors are given over to a highly-flexible free-plan arrangement of bookshelves, reading tables, and soft seating areas.  A simple and regular structural grid affords large open spaces, and gives the building’s librarians a high degree of flexibility in how these spaces are planned and utilized in the future.

The outer edge of these floors is occupied by more individual and quiet study spaces.  Designed to flexibly support a variety of individual and small-group uses, including Audio/Visual programs, individual study carrels, and small group reading nooks, this edge zone is visually defined by the use of wood at its floor, walls, and ceiling.  

Plans 2
1742 Scl Interior 001 B Final


2017 (competition)
Shanghai, China
110,000 GSF
Reading rooms, stacks, quiet learning areas, collaborative project based learning classrooms, auditorium, gallery, cafe, roof reading garden and library support spaces


Ennead Design Team
Thomas Wong, Kevin McClurkan, Grace Chen, Andrew Burdick, Wenny Hsu, Jackie Zhou, Wenyu Jiang, Xiaoyun Mao, Kyung Il Min, Ursula Trost