Modeled after a traditional Dong timber house, a new local library designed by Chinese architecture firm Condition_Lab highlights the region’s architectural heritage through elegant, contemporary details. Pingtan Book House is located in the village of Pingtan, Tongdao Province, Hunan, and nestles into the courtyard of a primary school that serves 400 children. The studio saw an opportunity to complement the school—a 20-year old blocky, concrete construction—with an addition that was more empathetic to its cultural and natural surroundings.
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Condition_Lab conceived of the idea for a pitched, tiled roof and mortise-and-tenon construction from the local vernacular, drawing attention to the region’s disappearing historic construction. “Entire villages built over centuries from a single sustainable material, indigenous China Fir, are rapidly losing their identity,” the studio explains in a statement. “Dong’s cultural DNA is being challenged by contemporary living and the quest to modernize.”
Connection and interaction within the space and with one another is an important facet of Condition_Lab’s ethos. “Social impact does not require large amounts of financial investment, design is not limited to high-end projects, and architecture must have a purpose,” the studio says. To make the interior space inviting for children to explore, sit, and read, the designers devised a unique plan: instead of rooms and doors, the layout consists of two staircases that wrap around one another in a double helix. Landings between staircases provide wall space for books and top-to-bottom windows that peer out into the surrounding landscape. The steps provide seating for the children, with views up and down the three-story structure through airy balustrades.
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