High by the Beach: Seashore Library by Vector Architects

On the shore of an idyllic white sandy beach in Beidaihe New District, a coastal region in eastern China, rests a monolithic yet classical structure that contains sublime spaces of aesthetic illumination. The Seashore Library, designed by the Beijing-based studio Vector Architects in 2015, portrays the endless interaction between the manmade and the natural where light, wind and the sound of the ocean enter uninterrupted into the building’s spaces to accentuate its austere lines.

The 450-square-meter structure is divided between two levels with the ground level comprising a reception, a bar, a resting area and a reading lounge while the first level hosts a meditation space, an activity room and a balcony. The concrete structure was cast on-site over a board-lined formwork to leave behind a grained and outlined imprint, reminiscent of the marks left on the sand when the sea breaks in great waves. “It implies a mark of memory in time,” the architects commented in a press statement. “Wood grains are the marks of the realisation process that we want to leave on the library.”

Occupying the centre of the two-storey library, a cavernous double-height reading area is organised in a terraced configuration, thus optimising the panoramic views of the ocean right outside; the light also penetrates the upper spaces through a strip of fixed windows, a wall of hand-made glass blocks and circular light wells. The design, initially developed in section, draws its identity from the relationship between the spaces of the Library and the ocean, with each space stretching out towards the vast, ever-changing surface of the water. For example, the rather dimmed meditation room encompasses only two slim openings, creating an atmosphere of contemplation where the sound of the ocean is ever present but its image is out of reach, while the reading lounge opens up directly onto the beach through pivot walls that enhance the ambivalence between interior and exterior.

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