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Competition entry for Gwangju City Main Library




Each new or renovated building in its own way changes the district life, urban landscape, infrastructure of that city. If it is a public building, it will have a strong impact on the city life pulse, if the building is dedicated to culture, the social map will inevitably change.

And if it is a library [if we treat the concept as actualized in today's format], everything should change fundamentally. We will look at the concept of today's library a little later, but we take this topic very broadly, much more as a socio-cultural rebus, rather as an architectural challenge.

The Gwangju Library is a new cultural, social and even economic page in urban development. The new library is a possibility, a chance, maybe even a recipe for a breakthrough.




South Korea [Republic of Korea] is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, whereas Gwangju is its sixth largest city and Sangmu district is a representative new downtown of the city.

The site is located in a cultural area of the city, and the future building will, in a sense, complete the urban fabric of the entire quarter. A few other culturally and socially significant objects are positioned in close proximity, such as Gwangju City Hall, the 5.18 Liberty Park, the Concert Hall, the Energe park, etc. Thus, the functional task of the new building is also to form a full-fledged cultural map.

On the north side of the site is the Gwangju River, the site is surrounded by reasonably active streets, and on the south side is an undeveloped site, the development of which will be extremely important for the viability of the future library and vice versa.



The development of the Library Project concept consists of several key values: 1. From monofunctional to polyfunctional. The library is a multifunctional building that combines different activities and meets different modern social needs. 2. The attraction and event center.  The library is a center in cultural, social and community terms. 3. The place of ideas. The library is a generator of knowledge, values, culture and community ideas. 4. Connections.  The library is a link between different functions, layers of society, ideas, creative and scientific initiatives.




The future library building is not only a cultural but also an approximate geographical center of Gwangju, connecting the city in both east-west and south-north directions. Therefore, the library completes neither the quarter, nor the city, yet on the contrary it performs as a link between different areas of the city, different types, sizes, heights and terrain. In urban sense, the building is transparent. 




Image and symbolism are very important to the library building. The Sangmu incinerator has a clear vertical - a chimney we suggest is turned into a lookout tower. The new library building will have an expressed horizontal - panoramic reading room with a functioning roof. These symbols are like a dialogue between two cultural objects.



The architectural concept of the building is based on the library formula explained above. The volume of the building is organized in such a way that the concept of the building's polyfunctionality, attraction center, variety of activities and functions can be implemented.

As the most important element, we integrated the staircase - the amphitheater - which becomes the connecting element of the architectural concept of the building.



The concept of the site plan is influenced by the building. Since the building itself is facing in all directions [has no main facade or entrance, because everything is connected at the ground floor level stylobate], so the path system connects the building with all the sides of the site. We propose to develop the public space to the south, through the vacant site towards Energe park, which would functionally and visually connect the neighboring cultural objects and create the preconditions for the necessary planning of the vacant site. As it was mentioned, the building is conceptually transparent and can be passed through the ground floor. Here we create the most important public space ‘the library balcony’, where the concentrated action will take place. Once you are here, you can travel in any direction you want, and the paths are developed to make it easy to connect with residential buildings and the nearest transport links, as well as with Energe Park and other important attractions. The location of the building on the site was determined by the existing landscaping. The vast majority of trees can be preserved and some replanted. As much green space as possible is formed on the site.

The site provides 55 parking spaces for library visitors, which include electric car charging stations, spaces for families and disabled people. Separate access and parking for staff and dedicated transport are also designed.

The site is designed so that there are no barriers for movement - unnecessary stairs, steep ramps. Persons with reduced mobility enter the elevator by the terrace. An environment is cyclists friendly, there is an outdoor sports ground adjacent to the physical education block.




Because the building mass is split into volumes by function, internal navigation in the library is very simple and intuitive. There are two types of building spaces - public and management. Public spaces include common service area, cultural and physical education and material use. Management area consists of the office, book storage and maintenance facilities.

The building is organized so that all its functions can be used both together and separately. The universal chamber, the education and the material use premises are all connected by a hall - a common space area on the ground floor, where the flow of people is distributed. The education and the material use are connected by means of the panoramic reading room on the third floor level, that also has a distinct accessible roof.

The books pass through the circulation room in the office and continue to be transported by the service elevator. The basement provides space for books and documents and a building maintenance facility.

Connection to the incinerator building is provided via the underground level.



Only a few materials are used in the building - stone, wood, glass and concrete. Many of the materials used in construction are natural, can be recycled, reused or already made from recycled materials. The idea of a modern building cannot be decoupled from the environment, so any environmentally harmful materials are avoided.

The shape of the building is simple enough to be easily constructed. It would be both meaningful and innovative to design the overground structures of such a building from wood. This kind of building could also become both – project design and green design flagship.




The interior concept of the building is directly related to the architecture of the building itself. In building's blocks are provided the internal structures that are detached from the facades, creating spaces over several floors with natural light. The main function rooms [material use, education] are dominated by wood, while the common space area is dominated by concrete and stone. The most important conceptual elements of the interior - light, acoustics, comfort, sense of space.




The modern library is inseparable from technologies. Nowadays, much of the information is digital, which is why the media library function is well developed and given a prominent role. However, even the usual physical material use library part becomes dependent on technology - archiving system, digital filing system etc. The library building itself must be technologically advanced - smart climate control, security, energy saving systems.



The building is designed to meet today's energy-saving, ecological, passive and sustainability criteria. Such a building must not only make sense functionally or socially but demonstrate the highest standards of construction quality. 

Our Sustainable Architecture Solutions for the Gwangju Library:

Solar photovoltaic cells

Double glass, which not overheated south side.

Geothermal heating 

CLT constructions

Rainwater harvesting

Advanced ventilation and climate control system by zone

Secondary use of recycled materials 

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