Following an earthquake in September 2012, the majority of houses in Shuanghe Village, Yunnan were destroyed, leaving residents living in tents for up to one year.
While the government had sponsored new concrete and brick houses and a large central plaza, the latter remained a large empty site.
The University of Hong Kong thus decided to sponsor the design and implementation of a new library building in the new but empty public plaza, with the aim of engaging the community and providing a physical memorial of the event.
The site of the library is set against a 4 metre-high retaining wall. The design spans across this level difference and acts as a bridge between the rebuilt village and the new memorial plaza. Emphasising its location in a remote mountain valley, the design responds visually to the landscape, offering stunning views across a dramatic double curved roof. The structure itself rises to a peak, a monument to the earthquake and rebuilding effort.
As a Knowledge Exchange Project, the construction involves collaboration with a local timber manufacturing factory. The process resulted in the development of a surprisingly diverse form through simple means. A series of trusses is anchored between the upper road level and lower plaza level. The form of each truss changes to create both a gradual incline (to bring people down) and then a sharp upward pitch (to elevate the roof). The trusses are covered in an aluminium waterproofing layer and timber decking. Inside, the trusses extend downward to support a floating bookshelf. Simple traditional school benches are used as chairs, and the polycarbonate doors can open to create a completely open space extending out to the plaza
Rather than submitting to the abandonment of wood construction (as with the houses after the earthquake), the project has reasserted the ability to build contemporary timber structures in remote areas of China.