The Gate: Songdo City Library
Bora Temelkuran Architecture
Built from scratch on reclaimed land, Songdo asserts itself as the world’s “smartest city.” At a glance, the city appears immaculate, packed with modern technologies from various personal mobilities to crime prevention monitoring maculate. However, the high-rise apartment blocks and vehicular-friendly city planning create limits for urban vibrancy, leaving residents without a street life. Even though the Songdo library site’s size is barely enough to influence the characteristics of the entire city, it is located remote enough from the central area and is the perfect location to become a satellite attractor for the neighbors. Our design proposal starts from the city’s existing walking trail, terminating right next to the library site, without further connection or turning point. The library, open or closed, will always become a ‘round about’ for the pedestrians where the outdoor activities regularly interact with the internal spaces surrounding them. This outside-in design approach also responds to the importance of the outdoor spaces in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has challenged every architect in myriad dramatic and unprecedented ways. The raised courtyard, gradual ramp, and viewing terrace will be accessible for the residents to stroll around even when the library is closed.
Intended or unintended visitors strolling along Songdo’s public trail will be led into the new library, where interaction with the future will be the first experience. The multi-level preservation room located in the center of the library vertically connects from the basement level to the courtyard. The current proposal being a place holder we anticipate constant reorganizable space reflecting the latest technologies. From the ground-level lounge, people can interact not only with the past but also with the future through this central spine of information. This space can also be viewed down from the courtyard skylight and spiraling ramp, always providing a unique sense of ‘place’ as a library. The top floor is intended as an open space with multiple terraces where dividing walls can be rearranged as needed responding to the technological or community needs.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of the public spaces has become more critical for a diverse range of people. Some need space where they can quietly attend a lecture or a meeting for work, some are desperate to engage with community activities or simply experience various technologies relating to information. The libraries are becoming more and more the ‘Emporium’ of our public lives. Architecture that can respond to these constantly changing needs is one of our primary goals. Rather than merely providing a vast open space, our proposal focuses on balancing both flexibility and quality of the spaces. Access to controlled daylight, outdoor environment is secured for most of the spaces. The ground and top floor are designed as flexible open spaces, which can easily adapt to the new lifestyles and programs. The stepped materials library floors bridge the two public floors. The project will become a new public living room for visitors and local residents in Songo.