26-02-2021

Wutopia Lab’s Satori Harbor Library in Guangzhou

Wutopia Lab,

CreatAR Images,

Guangzhou, China,

Libraries,

Interior Design,

The Satori Harbor Library in Guangzhou, designed by Chinese studio Wutopia Lab, is located inside Vipshop’s headquarters. The library reveals the complex mechanism of the world by creating an abstract harbour city in which readers can wander among the books finding moments of enlightenment and deliverance.



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Wutopia Lab’s Satori Harbor Library in Guangzhou
Wutopia Lab’s project for the Satori Harbor Library in Guangzhou is located in a very unusual place, on the 18th and 19th floors of the building housing the headquarters of Chinese e-commerce company Vipshop. Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton, is the biggest city on the Pearl River delta and one of the world’s biggest megalopolises, or adjoining urban areas. 
Despite its location in an e-commerce district, the library is by no means a hyper-technological construction; Wutopia Lab founder and director Yu Ting has come up with a design far removed from the world of the web, inspired by the Chinese spiritual tradition. He named the library after the great Taoist master Zhuangzi’s description of Satori (or Zhaoche): a state of transcendental being like "the morning light shining across the entire earth”. And the Satori Harbor Library manages to convey this idea through the effort dedicated to design of every little detail, from the entrance to the atmosphere of every room. The library is designed to represent an abstract harbour town, in which readers can wander among the books experiencing moments of enlightenment. Upon entering the building through a dimly lit tunnel, we immediately realise we are going into another world, quieter than the company’s offices: an almost cathartic passageway leads to a space below a big dome. Here the sound of waves reverberates, marking the boundary between the 'harbour ' and the ‘sea’, to continue with the marine analogy: a design expedient that connects visitors with the place and the metaphor it represents. Yet the Satori Harbor Library is real, and its 2200 square metres of floor space constitute a city within the city, in which 13 big bays of bookshelves become the city walls. Within them is a children’s play landscape, along with a series of narrow lanes and cosy, intimate corners. The overall design here is inspired by sand dunes, riverbanks and rolling hills, and even includes an abstract boat with a big red sail.
On the outskirts of this abstract city is a cave-like space whose curves, in combination with the lighting designed by Yu Ting, further disorient the visitor. Space and time appear suspended, but after our initial disorientation we realise how organised the apparent chaos actually is: a dramatic effect that allows us to enter a spiritual dialogue with heaven and earth through a space in a meditative mood.
Wutopia Lab’s Satori Harbor Library reveals the vein in contemporary Chinese architecture reinterpreting tradition: an excellent source of inspiration of architecture offering users unique experiences in harmony with the past, present and future.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Wutopia Lab
Location: Guangzhou, China
Year: 2020
Images: CreatAR Images

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