Shanghai Library East | landscape for the city

ASPECT Studios has created a community-oriented landscape for the new Shanghai Library East, in collaboration with leading library architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen (SHL).

Located on the edge of Century Park within the landscape of Shanghai’s Pudong district, the monumental library is one of the world’s largest, housing an astonishing collection of over 4.1 million books.

Comprising several distinct spaces, the ASPECT Studios-designed landscape connects the library to what is Shanghai’s largest open green space, while extending the internal program of the interior out into a natural setting.

“It was a real privilege to design and collaborate on such an important cultural and civic project for the city of Shanghai. This landscape was designed with the future of Shanghai in mind, and we are honored to provide a landscape environment that complements the architecture in creating a place that will thrive and mature into the future.”

Stephen Buckle, Design Director at ASPECT Studios

Each space has been crafted to maximise physical and visual connection to the context and extend the learning experience outside. Edges and elevations are folded, twisted and layered to connect the architecture to the ground, in a symbolic reference to the pages of a book. Places for people to meet, retreat or gather are defined by an undulating timber overlay that echoes the traditional Chinese bamboo scroll.

The landscape unfolds across eight carefully crafted and distinct areas, including an arrival plaza, sunken dining courtyard, outdoor theater and events space, floating sky deck and children’s garden.

The arrival plaza acts as a place for larger civic gatherings and events, and the main pedestrian connection to the city. A series of interconnected rain gardens on the edge of the plaza dissolve into the woodland, creating a sequence of explorative spaces and a gateway to an under-canopy walkway.

Nestled below ground level, the sunken courtyard is a tranquil place for social connection, dining, and more intimate events and activations. Composed by “twisting” the vertical elevations that enclose the sunken space with layers of planted terraces, visitors are presented with a view up towards the tree canopy, allowing natural light to permeate the lower levels.

The layered landscape of the rooftop sky garden provides a range of elevations and sightlines across the park and the city beyond. Shaded seating, desks and perches provide moments of repose, and vantage points from which to appreciate unique views of the Pudong skyline.

The children’s garden immerses visitors in a biophilic environment that acts as an outdoor extension of the interior children’s library.  A rain garden encourages moments of tactile curiosity, while colourful “learning pods” expand teaching and reading space and bookend a small nature trail.

Shanghai Library East

Landscape Architect: ASPECT Studios

Architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen (SHL)

Photography: Wenjie Wang

About Damian Holmes 3228 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at