National Library Kansai Division

Seika-cho, Kyoto

When we think of a book we are faced with a paradox. A book is essentially information -and information is without form- yet that information is inscribed on sheets of paper bound together. And perhaps, because of this paradox, books are more than just information. Their material existence sustains fields such as culture and history. The modern library reflects the book’s paradoxical character. The program of a library is not so easy to define. In this competition for the National Library in Kansai, the required function too is paradoxical. It is to store books and to trans-mit formless information. We thus must deal with both visible books and invisible information. We must also deal with the people involved in the library. It was our task to discover how the movements of books, information and people might intersect and to translate our discovery into architecture.
In our proposal, we have a closed mass for the storage and protection of books, and an open volume for the information center. These are both 162m long. In between the two volumes is the reading/circulation space, which has a 30 m high ceiling. This space has, on one side, a view of the bookshelves floating in the shadows within the storage/preservation block, and on the other side, a view of the information center floating in the north light. The movements of books, people and information crisscross and are made manifest in the enormous atrium in the reading/circulation space. The storage block on the south side is completely closed. By contrast, the information center on the north side is open to nature; it has a roof garden and three-dimensionally arranged greenery inside its outer membrane of glass and wood louvers. The reading/circulation room not only mediates between these two contrasting spaces but is a space flooded with light introduced through the translucent glass on the walls and the roof. This light is an abstract form of nature, and it illuminates by contrast the artificial character of the movements of books, information and people.
The new city in which this site is located has as yet no clear identity. The proposal is a simple form that is intended to be in marked contrast to the sprawling landscape. The building is situated in the southern part of the site so that an observer looking north from the information center is provided with a sense of depth, that is, foreground, middle ground and background. Water has been arranged around the building as a metaphor for nature and suggests to the visitor approaching the facility the contrast between nature and information that is a basic concept of this design.