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Daegu Gosan New Media Neighbourhood Library
March 14th, 2013

Daegu Gosan New Media Neighbourhood Library

Summer 2012

Location: Daegu, Korea

Principals in Charge: R. el-Khoury and R. Levit

Team: Faisal Bashir, Dimitra Papantonis, Regina Park, Yie Ping, Farnoush Saman

The digital transformation of information and increasingly ubiquitous access to information have had a dramatic impact upon libraries. But, rather than diminishing their importance as institutions, their role as places of gathering where social exchanges fueled by the absorption of information and development of knowledge has grown dramatically. They are the antidote to the potentially isolating effects of ubiquitous access to information because they are the sites where people will continue to gather for face-to-face exchanges—the sites where social exchange ushers in new thought.

Our library proposal starts with an urban idea. The library is closed on three sides by a “bookshelf wall” but opens dramatically to the beautiful park of trees that line the main avenue upon which the library is sited. Facing into the trees a two story glass wall creates a threshold between the multi-story shelf-lined volume of the library and the park. Above this great glazed face and at the end of the main reading room on the top floor an outdoor terrace overlooks the city through the crown of trees that line the boulevard. Passersby will be able to see into this library–an urban oasis of information and social exchange. From within the library users will be able to see back out through the arboreal filter of the park to the urban realm of which they remain a part.

The main floor of the library sits directly on the ground, emphasizing its connection with the city outside. It uses a unique configuration of structure that lends the building its unique character. Four main columns rise through the building—tree-like—spreading out in brackets on the top floor and holding up glue-laminated wooden assemblies that form the ceiling-roof structure. The stacked cantilevering pattern of this ceiling-roof structure draws the arboreal atmosphere of the park into the building, while recalling the stacked hanok pattern of timber structure characteristic of traditional Korean construction. The slatted opening of the ceilings illuminated from within the hollows of the ceiling-roof structure will recall the dappled light of trees. The arboreal nature of the structure and the space that it makes around it draws to mind archaic notions of gathering under the shelter of a spreading tree. The use of glue-laminated structure in the upper portion of the library draws together new technologies of wood manufacture and construction and the enduring sensibilities that are related to the cultural history of wood as an architectural material. Finally wood is a renewable resource.

The main walls of the library are steel crate-like frames that are both structural and where books are actually stored. From outside these walls appear to be bookshelves, an explicit sign of the library. Within, they are, in fact, bookshelves. They line the main spaces of the library, and provide shelving even within offices and behind information desks, creating a unifying element throughout the library.

This book-shelf wall is closed from the weather by a double glazed layer of variously coloured glass, translucent in most areas and wherever books are located, and transparent to permit view where appropriate and desirable. Set within each of these glazed assemblies are light sources that will glow bright whenever anyone searches a book the call number of which is situated within a particular partition in the bookshelf wall. The intensity of the illumination will fade over the course of a few minutes, creating a constantly flickering and fading visual display and afterimage of the myriad book searches occurring from within the library and offsite though the library’s digital catalog.

Programmatic organization: We have located the two public spaces, the Culture and Lifelong Study Centres, around a sunken court just inside the entrance to the building. They are easily accessible from this main entrance and from the garage entrance without requiring passage through the library proper. These two rooms share a glazed wall that divides them, within which a curtain can be used to visually isolate or link the two rooms. We imagine that at times linked activities—discussions and lectures, would related to exhibition uses, and therefore make sense of visual and physical connections, but more independent uses are also equally possible.

The main information desk is immediately present upon entry into the building, and passed it on the main floor is a multi-story room in for browsing the internet, and reading newspapers and magazine. In the mezzanine that overlooks this room additional banks of computers are also located. These areas are sites of daily use by library habitués and are most directly linked with the urban ground and closest to entry.

At the south end of the library on the second floor is the children’s library which is also located in a two story space. This room opens upwards to the main reading room above (while being acoustically protected by glazed partitions). While the furnishing and proportion of this room will permit a cozy atmosphere for story-time and young person’s early reading experiences, the view up to the ceiling will permit the children to enjoy what we think will be the wonder of the unusual forms of the building’s architecture. The tree-like columns and third floor ceiling which rise from a column eccentrically positioned in the children’s reading room and will provide for them that foundational space of arboreal shelter which the entire building is based upon.

The third floor is the main reading hall. It is where one feels most clearly the extent of the arboreal structure overhead, and its relationship to the bounding walls of books. The library has an ark-like feel at the top. It is a site that though fragmentary, is now a digital portal to increasingly total access to information. The linking of the library walls to the activities of the ubiquitous web-based searches captures something of the confluence of the libraries physical limit with the near infinite realm of the digital information world.

This third floor reading room overlooks the children’s library and ends on a very generous sized terrace that, as mentioned, looks on to the main boulevard through the feathering effects of the canopy of trees that front the library. Like the view out the book surrounding bookshelves themselves appear like so many multicoloured leaves hanging from the branching structure.

Service and offices: Office spaces line the eastern edge of the building, where they can be accessed easily from the entrance, with a second floor office also quickly accessible. All these offices back onto the bookshelf wall and link them with the larger spaces of the library.

The book restoration area is opposite the Lifelong Study Centres, and faces onto the sunken court that it shares with them. The wall here is also glass, but with a built in curtain that also permits privacy. It is possible thus to allow the public to see, as is increasingly popular in museums, the back-of-house work and craft that goes into the maintenance of institutional materials.