A New Library in China Pays Homage to Traditional Dong Timber Houses

All images © Condition_Lab and UAL Studio. Photograph by Sai Zhao

A new local library in China, designed by Chinese architecture firm Condition_Lab, has been modeled after a traditional Dong timber house. Nestled in a primary school’s courtyard, the Pingtan Book House offers an inviting haven to the 400 children who reside in Tongdao Province’s village of Pingtan. Rather than blending into its 20-year-old concrete surroundings, this studio saw an opportunity to bring empathy and cultural relevance to the area by creating something that embraced nature instead.

Condition_Lab creatively designed a sloped, tiled roof and mortise-and-tenon construction from the local vernacular to draw attention to the soon-to-be-lost historical structures around them. The studio explains in their statement, “Entire villages constructed with just one sustainable material — China Fir — over centuries are rapidly erasing what makes this region unique. Dong’s cultural identity is threatened as it struggles between modernizing and retaining its heritage.”

Condition_Lab is unwavering in its belief that connection and interaction within our designs and between people are crucial to achieving meaningful social impact. Our ethos:

  • Format should be accessible regardless of financial resources.
  • Architecture must always serve a purposeful aim.
  • Great ideas can transcend high-end projects.

To create a lively indoor area where children could explore, sit and read comfortably, the designers developed an ingenious concept: replacing rooms and doors with two intertwined staircases in the shape of a double helix. Taking advantage of the vertical space, bookshelves fill the walls between staircases and tall windows highlight views from each level. The steps double as a cozy nook for kids to relax and appreciate the whole picture through airy balustrades up or down three stories.

Condition_Lab utilizes thoughtfully crafted design to create meaningful impact, and you can get more insights into the studio’s work on its website or Instagram.

Photograph by Sai Zhao
Photograph by Sai Zhao
Photograph by Sai Zhao
Left: Photograh by Sai Zhao. Right: Photograph by Xiaotie Chen
Photograph by Sai Zhao
Left: Photograph by Xiaotie Chen. Right: Photograph by Sai Zhao
Photograph by Sai Zhao
Photograph by Xiaotie Chen