Japanese library inspired by forests celebrates communal learning
A new library and community center in Nasushiobara by the Japanese architecture studio of Mari Ito, UAo, takes its cues from forests
The city of Nasushiobara has just got a new library and community centre courtesy of the dynamic Japanese architecture studio of Mari Ito, UAo. A geometric composition out of glass, metal and timber, the building feels at once modern and at home in its wider context – as its design, explains the architect, has been inspired by forests, which are ‘an important part of the city’s identity.’
Turning a green leaf
A glass enclosure wrapping around the building creates a semi-transparent border, which allows glimpses through to what’s happening inside (like peeking through trees) and keeps climatic conditions safe and comfortable for books and people. At the same time, the openness, which continues internally supported by tall ceilings and large, flowing interiors, is accentuated by the large roof canopy that covers the whole structure. Its geometric folds and angles brings to mind an abstracted forest canopy, under which life unfolds.
The fairly large scale structure (at a total floor area of some 5,000 sq m) has been organised around, what its creator calls, ‘forest pockets’. ‘When we step into a forest, we sense the subtle yet constant changes in season, weather, and plant and animal life, absorbing these transformations in multiple emotionally powerful ways,’ say the architects. ‘Similarly, as visitors walk freely through the library, they experience layers of subtle changes unfolding across softly defined borders, from the aphorisms and other exhibits displayed at various locations in the building to the activities and other human-caused transformations taking place.’
A learning environment
At the same time, the new library and centre has been finely tuned to serve its community and purpose. Spanning two floors, the building interior is defined by its expressive wooden shelving system – at places appearing very tall, reaching double heights, and at others peeking over the floor at much lower levels, so that people can look over and connect visually with the environment. These bookshelf configurations forms the backbone of the interior, acting as centrepiece features, partitions and functional storage.
Their arrangement across the floor also mirrors the pie charts used in the Japanese library classification system. This helps with ‘improving searchability and enabling circulation routes that cut across the categorized stacks.’
Addressing the new roles of modern libraries – a place for friends to meet, a vibrant hub for the wider community, a multi-platform centre for learning – the Nasushiobara library and centre plans to be much more than ‘just’ a building to house books. Sparking interaction, promoting knowledge and strengthening community ties, this new building is set to inspire and prove a powerful resource for all locals. §