Gwanju City Library, Korea

Inspired by local Korean building traditions and the delicacy and temporal state of knowledge, the Library of Light was designed by Open Architecture Studio as part of the International Design Competition calling for submissions for a Library in Gwangju, South Korea. Challenging the historical library typology of solid enclosed walls, the library of light is four storeys of interwoven activity wrapped in a transparent cloth like structure to encourage visibility and interaction.

The Library of Light was designed to be a glowing cultural beacon that hovers elegantly above the landscape, wrapping itself symbolically in a flowing façade that protects the people and culture within and is outwardly animated with the rich history of Korean literary culture. Sitting comfortably within the new and vibrant heart of Gwangju, the library acts as a book-end to the cultural spine and anchors the precinct along with other new pavilions, museums and art galleries.

The building borrows from local vernacular building traditions, employing a familiar set of spaces and architectural devices that respond to the local culture and environment. A central outdoor room, or “Dauchong Maru”, is at the heart of the building welcoming and directing visitors whilst providing a flexible events space with a beautifully choreographed outlook to the seasonal park beyond.

A perforated skin wraps the building to create a layered and breathable façade, enclosing a series of unique outdoor rooms and gardens throughout the building. The skin was designed to represent the delicate nature of knowledge providing an almost paper like skin to the books within. From day to night the paper like skin changes to an animated art piece featuring international artworks and lively cultural displays.

The undulating roof form inspired by roof forms found in traditional Korean Architecture serves not only to protect the Library from the harsh seasonal trends but also to provide an animated and exciting feature with its mosaic tile undulating underside which emerges and lifts to at various point both inside and outside the building. The mosaic underside changes colour from vibrant red to orange to green representing the change in seasonal colour found in Korean landscape.

The Library of Light was designed to be a Korean Cultural Institution, a beacon at night and a delicate form by day, to hopefully continue the rich building and literary culture of the country and city.

Project Information

Area: Total 25,000 m² (including unenclosed functional covered areas)

Project Value: unknown


Architects: Open Architecture Studio

  • Michael Bailey

  • Chapman Leijenaar

  • Heinrich Olckers

  • Daia De Brito

  • Suzy Syme

  • Amy Byun

  • Yuri Valle