Dull building alert: Shanghai Library

Shanghai’s French Concession is where you find most of the city’s old Art Deco apartment blocks, small streets and laneways, cafes and galleries. But, every so often, you’ll encounter a building (or complex of buildings) that isn’t playing by the rules.  The Shanghai Library is one such building.

On my walk to one of the local Metro stations, having just passed the grand mansions of Yongfu Road (now mostly converted to consulates and expensive restaurants) and making my final turn toward the station, the library leaps out of the surrounding low-scale neighbourhood.

Closer, against the overhead electricity cables, it almost looks like one of those two-point perspective drawings I was taught to draw in Architecture school – with construction lines yet to be erased.  It suggests that the building may have looked OK on the architect’s drawing board.  But, in it’s tile-clad reality, totally out of scale and character with its context, not so much.

Said architect (a Zhang Jie Zheng) didn’t seem to spend much time on making the entry to the building a pleasant experience – it somehow manages to be hidden and foreboding at the same time.

Included is a replica of Rodin’s The Thinker.  You don’t have to guess what I was thinking at this moment, I’ve already said it.

The building is big – over 80,000 square metres, and housing 13.2 million books and 30 million other items.  Of course, it is second in size to the Beijing National Library.

But, at over 100 metres high, it is the tallest library in the world.  That way, the correct order of things is respected – Beijing must always have the biggest (and thus, most important), Shanghai can be content with tallest or shiniest or newest.

At almost 20 years old, the library is not that new by Chinese standards.  But, when the light hits at the right angle, it definitely can be shiny.

It can be a good building to photograph on one of Shanghai’s rare blue-sky days.

Not that this makes it a good building.

In fact, anything but.



One Response to Dull building alert: Shanghai Library

  1. I can’t say that is a completely boring buildings it does have some good qualities. I quite like the top of the building

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