suckerPUNCH: describe your project
preston scott COHEN: the new library for datong city is inspired by the yungang grottoes, the masterpiece of early chinese buddhist cave art for which the city is known around the world. the grottoes are located at the southern foot of wuzhou mountain some 16 km west of datong. filled with carvings and buddha statues from the 5th and 6th centuries, they combine traditional chinese art forms with foreign influences. the new datong city library forms a roof landscape with openings that recall the carved spaces of the grottoes. though related to the wuzhou mountainside, its horizontal form identifies the library as a place that belongs to the contemporary world and to the people of this city in particular.
while the yungang grottoes tell the story of past glory, the library stores knowledge of the history that brings us to our own time. the building is deeply embedded in the local context while possessing a distinctively international character that places it on the world stage of important contemporary cultural institutions. as such, it will provide the modern counterpart for the famous antique grottoes.
the openings in the library’s landscape, like those of the grottoes, each establish a place with its own character. courtyards, lightwells, gardens, and skylights populate the library and provide light and views for a diversity of spaces for study and social activity within the building. the openings are derived geometrically from two mathematically defined, free formed curved surfaces. the curved surfaces are represented as large scale mosaics composed of flat surfaces that meet one another along edges that define the light filled openings. the two mosaics are aligned with one another in a remarkably coincidental way. their relationship is an achievement made possible by advanced computational design tools.
datong, china 2009.
project team: design: preston scott COHEN; development and
presentation: matthew allen, carl d’apolito-dworkin, collin gardner,
michelle chang, juan jofre, mary stuckert, janna kauss