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August 6, 2021

Natural Library in Zheshui Village Wins 2021 Design Educates Award

Kathryn Shanks
Natural Library in Zheshui Village Wins 2021 Design Educates Award
LUO Studio’s award-winning library was built against natural rock formations, creating a hybrid indoor/outdoor atmosphere.

Located in Shanxi’s Taihang Mountains, Zheshui Village is closely intertwined with the local topography. Traditional building techniques involve building houses that lean against the mountainsides, seeing the natural environment as a support structure rather than an inconvenience. This integrative style inspired LUO Studio’s Natural Library, where the mountains spill into the library to provide walls and seating among timber bookshelves.

Zheshui’s library is shaped around the rock formations, with a contrasting straight wall of bookshelves set against the sprawling naturalism of the landscape. LUO Studio designed the structure to ensure minimal impact on the environment, which carries across to the materials used as well as the overall structure. Thin timber columns and beams, measuring 4cm and 2.5cm respectively, were chosen to save resources, while the interlocking structure provides stability without the overuse of materials. The grid-style walls are filled with glass bricks, complementing the incorporation of the geography by providing natural lighting and external views.

LUO Studio’s library won the 2021 Design Educates Award in Architectural Design, which prioritises education and lasting influence in architecture and design. The uncompromising dedication to preserving the natural environment is a crucial element of the design that can and should be carried forward, particularly in terms of how the rocks are useful within the design itself, rather than decorative. With woven mats atop the rock shelving, the library encourages visitors to seat themselves among the topography, emphasising the natural environment as a place of learning and relaxation. Moreover, the library was built by locals: the construction credit goes to ‘Old Wu XiaoWu and his workmates, Xiao Fang and his workmates, [and] the villagers of Zheshui Village’, demonstrating a true sense of community and collaboration on behalf of LUO Studio.

The Zheshui Natural Library is truly a masterclass in incorporating the natural environment into designs, rather than modifying or working around it. LUO Studio has demonstrated the atmospheric and aesthetic benefits of doing so, providing Zheshui with a beautiful addition to their mountainside village.

If you liked this article, you can read more about architecture and the natural environment here, where we write about the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel Resort in Saudi Arabia.

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