Beitou Public Library in Taiwan

As I emerge from the subway, the fragrance of sulfur and chlorophyll envelope my senses. With just a few steps, I leave behind the concrete station and enter a verdant park shrouded by billowing willows and maples.

Chaotic tree canopies melt into neatly zoned walkways, trimmed hedges, and winding streams below. Grandpas stoop intently over a chess game, parents peacefully watch zigzagging children, and grandmas sway their limbs in unison with the trees. 

1 hour by rail from the heart of Taipei’s packed urban landscape, Beitou is a needed respite for citizens of the populous capital. Known for its open-air hot springs and its world-renowned library, it’s quite frankly, one of the most beautiful places I’ve stepped foot into. 

This afternoon, I was eager to check out the library. As I made my way through the park, a wooden structure emerged, barely peeking from the tree groves. Around the two-storey building, a wooden patio snaked around nesting couples taking in idyllic koi ponds below.  

People come here to pause from their day or drop into a mental rabbit hole.

The building seems to break the mental narrative, yet harmoniously continue its narrative with the physical world.

It is a structure that is more interesting for what is not stated. 

“An attempt to build a library that can breathe."

Having come from an environment where man’s dominion over nature was deliberately architected, this was a soothing backpedaling.

Beitou Public Library was a part of the natural landscape, not upon it.

I soon learned that Beitou Public Library was also Taiwan's first green library designed by Bio-Architecture Formosana to curb water and electricity consumption.

Here are some aspects of that inten:

  • Wood material. the library is built out of wood instead of concrete as every wood substitute — including cement and steel — requires far more energy to produce than lumber. Even the woods used during the construction were from managed forests rather than primary rainforests.
  • Windows. The building uses large windows to reduce the consumption of lighting electricity.  With well-designed openings, the library itself can be naturally lit and cooled without consuming much energy.
  • The roof. The roof was designed to be partially covered with photovoltaic cells to generate electricity and also designed to capture rain water to be stored and used to flush toilets as well is water the library’s plants. 
  • The balcony is also eco-friendly. Its vertical design conserves energy by reducing the amount of heat-causing rays allowed to enter the rooms
  • The paint. Eco-friendly paint was also used, to reduce the amount of toxins released into the environment.

As I headed home that day, it became clear to me that Beitou Public library was not just a place to check out books and study.

Though the tangible structure definitely leaves a mental imprint, it is the principles it represents that linger on the mind.

A philosophical meditation. 

Indeed, when is art ever about art? The building ever about the building? The materials used and skills applied? 

No, it’s the philosophy and ideologies it imbues. To live on in the human psyche, far after structure turns to rubble, rubble to dust. 

The Third Space Rating

Scent - 3

  • Depending on whether you like the smell of sulfur, the scent is omnipresent throughout Beitou, though muted within the confines of the library

Vibes - 5

  • Beitou feels like a treehouse immersed in a grove of vernal maples. The vibes are very one with nature, which lends to one feeling similarly. From the wooden structure of the building, to the book between your hands, everything feels fertile and organic. 

Textures - 4

  • Light undulates between wood and glass. Angular in places, rounded out in others, beitou feels perfectly asymmetric - much like nature. 

Lighting - 5

  • Shifted away from direct lighting and nestled below trees, the lighting is perfectly ambient and diffused. 

Noise - 5

  • It's silent within the walls of the library. However, once you step out into the patio you’ll be doused in a light aquatic landscape from the sleepy stream below. 

Inclusivity  - 5

  • Being only 2 floors, the building felt consumable as opposed to overwhelming, with ample railing and seating. 

Total rating: 27/30

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