City main library Gwangju

The proposed library is divided into two discernable halves: a sunken lower part and an upper volume. While the lower part integrates the surroundings with the Gwangju River promenade, the upper volume is raised and transparent. There is a garden between them.

The library as an instrument of integration

The lower part of the library is conceived as a potential connector between the Gwangju River on the northern edge and the large-scale housing complex located in the Sangmu district. It integrates the two parts without disrupting the existing traffic pattern and accommodates a cafeteria, indoor sports facilities, storage rooms, and the main entrance foyer.

The upper volume of the library steps back from the street to carve out a void in front of it. This subterranean void also extends outward to the river promenade. A pedestrian and cycling route integrates the river promenade with the adjacent housing complex in the neighbourhood.

The library as a threshold

An expansive plaza carved out at street level will connect the incinerator factory building with the library. It will also provide access to the lower concourse. The plaza opens up to a tree-lined promenade bordering the south side of the site, with the upper volume of the library acting as a frame. Perched beside a canopy of trees, the library offers panoramic views of its surrounding landscape.

The library’s open street level is intended as an extension of the plaza. The upper volume acts as a canopy to host outdoor exhibitions and events. It can also function independently. The garden surrounding the upper volume extends to the sidewalk, facilitating seamless accesses and blurring the threshold between inside and outside.

The library as a passageway

The upper volume of the library is organised around an internal street. Free of internal walls, the transparency across and between levels provides visitors with multiple overlapping views across the interior spaces and outwards towards the adjacent Gwangju River.

Bookshelves, reading rooms, a children’s area, exhibition spaces, and walkways occupy horizontal platforms that extend three stories high. These allow flexibility and a hybrid mix between the new and diverse programmes for the local community.

The proposed library rethinks the format of a traditional library, extending beyond its role as an institution that houses books towards being an integrator in the broader community.


City main library Gwangju (Canopy on void) | date : 2020 | location : Gwangju, South Korea | team : Madhusudhan Chalasani, Girish Karnawat, Jesús Garrido, Bharat Kumar, Vamsi Krishna, Bob Peniel, Reshma Esther Thomas, Niharika Sanyal, Carlos Gonzalvo | client : Gwangju Metropolitan City | status : International competition