What should an ideal “ivory tower” building look like in a city?

  Every move of “Internet celebrities” is news. Not long ago, why the English name on the building of Xujiahui Academy was “ZIKAWEI” caused a wave of research. In 2023, the coldest Shanghai in the beginning of the year, the most lively place is actually the library. This is something that many people do not think of.
  ”During the Spring Festival holiday, I was in the East Building of Shangtu every day.” A netizen posted a check-in itinerary, which surprised the architect of the East Building of Shanghai Library (hereinafter referred to as the East Building of Shangtu): “I know everyone likes the East Building. But I really don’t know there are friends who go there every day.” The East Building of Shanghai Library has a daily intake of 9,000 people during the Spring Festival holiday, which is close to the designed maximum capacity of 10,000 people. Xujiahui Academy, which officially opened on New Year’s Day, ushered in a large passenger flow when it opened the gate, and once had to queue up to enter.
  In an era when e-reading has profoundly affected everyone, the library has become a place where everyone competes to experience it. This phenomenon seems contradictory and full of metaphors.
  The library building itself seems to have a kind of magical magnetism. When you get close to it, you will be attracted by it and immersed in it. Library buildings are also regarded as a symbol of human wisdom, whether it is the Hogwarts library in “Harry Potter” or the University City Library in “Game of Thrones” that hides the secrets of saving human beings. the importance of accumulating knowledge.
  In Shanghai, China’s most modern city, what kind of “ivory tower” will attract the public like a magnet? “Xinmin Weekly” interviewed the architects responsible for the architectural design of Xujiahui Academy and Shanghai Library East Building.
Being regarded as an “old building” is a success

  ”Do you think Xujiahui Academy is a new building or an old building restored?”
  The reporter conducted a small survey among colleagues and friends around him, and all of them answered: “Old building.” The reporter conveyed this misunderstanding to the British David Chip Du Zhexu, architect of Field Architects (DCA), responded: “If you make people feel that it is an old building, and even ten or twenty years later, everyone will forget when the building was built, then We achieved our design goals. We wanted the building to blend in beautifully with its surroundings and make people feel as though it always belonged here.”

There are Xujiahui Catholic Church and Xujiahui Observatory around Xujiahui Academy. Photography / Rex Zou

  David Chipperfield Architects (DCA) is the designer of Xujiahui Academy. The completed projects of this firm in China include Zhejiang Liangzhu Museum, Shanghai West Bund Art Museum, Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, Shanghai Rock·The Bund, etc. Du Zhexu reviewed the design process of Xujiahui Academy to Xinmin Weekly.
  Today, the construction of Xujiahui Academy started ten years ago. In 2013, when Du Zhexu’s company participated in the bidding, the future function of the building was not clear, and the initial plan was to use it as a bookstore.
  The biggest feature of the building land in front of the architect is not the plot itself, but the Xujiahui Catholic Church and Xujiahui Observatory around it. They are all protected buildings with a history of more than 100 years, and they are also exemplary from the perspective of architecture. , but also a famous tourist attraction in Shanghai. Being close to such a special building put forward special requirements for the design team.
  Du Zhexu said that after doing background research, the team found that in recent decades, the Xujiahui area has been in a state of high-density and high-speed development, with large-scale shopping centers and residential towers appearing, and the historical and cultural atmosphere is changing in the process of urbanization. Gradually dilute. The Xujiahui Catholic Church and other surrounding protected buildings are scattered and independent, and there is a lack of overall space planning between them and the surrounding new buildings, making these historical and cultural buildings seem out of place, and it is difficult to truly become a part of contemporary urban life.
  Therefore, at the beginning of the design, the design team tried to achieve “urban restoration” to better highlight the church’s dominant position in the urban space through new buildings.
  Du Zhexu said that during the design process, the team should not only communicate with the owner in the traditional sense, but also communicate frequently with religious management departments, cultural relics protection departments and other institutions, and adopt suggestions from various aspects. “In order to avoid competing with the 26-meter height of the main building of the church (the spire is 51 meters), we controlled the height of the new building at 18 meters.”
  Now we see Xujiahui Academy and Xujiahui Catholic Church enclosing a city square, standing beside the church , Xujiahui Academy looks simple and low-key, but it is hard to ignore its existence. How is this “complementary” effect achieved?
  Du Zhexu introduced that, first of all, in terms of the overall shape of the building, Xujiahui Academy adopts a more classic geometric shape. “We hope that the architectural form of the academy can stand the test of time, and the simple and steady form is a classic that can be passed on.” He introduced that classic buildings generally pursue rationality and order, such as churches, which are usually left and right. Symmetrical. When designing Xujiahui Academy, the architect also adopted classic proportions and rational lines.
  Another reason to integrate with the environment is the facade of Xujiahui Academy. The façade of Xujiahui Academy facing the square is composed of slender columns extending vertically from the ground to the roof. The columns wrap the whole building, making the whole building volume abstract and unified. These columns also form open corridors on each floor, strengthening the relationship between the square and the new building, and becoming a characteristic transitional space connecting the academy and the square.
  ”Through a comprehensive study of Shanghai’s traditional building materials, we chose precast concrete mixed with stone aggregates to build these columns and other parts of the facade.” Du Zhexu said “precast concrete mixed with stone aggregates”, It is the uneven material on the surface of the column that tourists can see. This material has a similar approach on the exterior walls of many century-old small western-style buildings in Shanghai. It may be precisely because of this familiar exterior wall that many tourists mistakenly believe that Xujiahui Academy is refurbished from an old building.
  When it comes to the harmony between new buildings and old buildings, in the past, many places used the method of imitating old buildings, hoping to achieve the effect of “difficult to distinguish between real and fake”. So why didn’t Xujiahui Academy look very close to the style of the church when it was designed? Du Zhexu explained that the new building next to the Xujiahui Catholic Church should not “steal the limelight”. Deliberate imitation will form a competitive relationship between the new building and the historical building. The purpose of the new building is to set off the church. Xujiahui Academy also adopted off-white color as the keynote, and did not imitate the church either in form or in the material of the facade.
  In the end, Xujiahui Academy came to the public with a back-to-basics attitude, which “confuses” everyone’s eyes.
Let the library have a “social sense”

  After the completion of the East Building of the Shanghai Library, fashionable people in Shanghai have a new activity—check in the library. Nowadays, going to the library is as fashionable as going to an art gallery to see an exhibition, having a cup of afternoon tea on the terrace, or going to Disney to take a photo with the castle on tiptoe. Although some people criticize that people who punch in the library do not read, but the library that has changed its functional orientation may not care about whether the little brothers, sisters, aunts, aunts, and uncles who don’t mind taking pictures are “reading books”, because the library itself has changed from simply collecting books. The functions of research, borrowing and borrowing are iterated to be close to the concept of community public space.