Quiet contemplation: Vector Architects’ beachside library in China makes the perfect reading retreat
Set against the backdrop of the Bohai Sea, the sound of crashing waves and the rippling effect of water, the serene Seashore Library in China’s north-eastern beach of Nandaihe is the brainchild of Beijing-based Vector Architects.
Offering an uninterrupted, front-row view of the seashore’s dramatic sky and ever-changing waters, the building was conceived as an exercise in harmonious coexistence between architecture and landscape. Through his work, Vector’s lead architect, Gong Dong, aims to convey a series of complex relationships, negotiating the idea of boundary, the movement of the human body, the shifting light and the ocean view.
The impressive concrete building houses a reading area, a meditation space, an activity room, a bar and a resting area. Each aims to portray a distinct relationship between the space and the ocean, and each has its own identity. At ground level, a series of spaces look out towards the ocean through windows that can be opened on warm days. On top of these is a large horizontal strip window; behind it, the building’s striking centrepiece reading room.
The meditation space sits next to the reading area on the top floor. Two slim openings on the east and west sides let in light during sunrise and sunset, creating a contemplative ambience. A dramatic curve pushes the ceiling down, discretely dividing the space in two. Above it is a terrace, where people can sit, listen to the sound of the ocean and enjoy the breathtaking view. These peaceful sections offset the more lively activity and reading rooms – the two separated by an outdoor platform.
In order to create panoramic views in the main room, steel trusses – running towards the top of the building – carry the roof loads. Next to these trusses, handcrafted glass blocks are incorporated into the walls, adding another layer of subtle, thoughtful lighting.
The half-arched roof opens towards the sea like a periscope. It features several small, round openings that aid natural ventilation in the summer months. Once these are opened, sunlight also streams through, adding to the unique blend of light, sound and purposeful design that together comprise the Seashore Library’s user experience.