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Along the coast of Haikou, a bustling port city on the island of Hainan, China, a peculiar landmark has been slowly taking shape. MAD Architects, known for their voluptuous forms and eye-catching, innovative designs, have just set the last beam on this soon-to-be iconic edifice: the Cloudscape of Haikou. Part of an ongoing urban planning project to rejuvenate the metropolis’ seaside, the library — perched on the edge of the South China Sea — is well-placed to become a vibrant hub in the busy capital. 

The completed 1,380-square-metre building consists of two separate wings: a 690-square-metre library area and reading space adjacent to a 300-square-metre mixed-use facilities block containing a public rest zone, washrooms, showers and even bike storage.

The structure’s “wormhole” shape is to be taken literally and figuratively — an architectural representation of both an insect or larvae burrowing and the limits of time and space. At first glance, the form bears a distinctly organic quality, reinforcing an association with the worm-bitten apple core it seeks to emulate. To achieve this swirling effect, CNC cut and 3D-printed formwork was used, ensuring the seamlessness and sense of lightness desired.

Solid concrete now envelops the space — the smooth surface blending floors, walls and ceilings together to create a dizzying vertiginous effect. In a striking feat of engineering, electrical and plumbing systems were integrated into the form, allowing the monolithic and continuous wormhole shape to retain its purity. 

Meant to provide a quasi-monastic and serene refuge from the ebbs and flows of city life, a connection to the natural landscape was therefore paramount. The organically shaped structure’s glass curtain walls and sliding doors increase airflow and ventilation while providing flexible access to the outdoors — deftly avoiding a claustrophobic feeling despite the building’s impenetrable presence. The library’s “wormholes,” piercing through the sinuous walls and ceilings, for their part, act as skylights that flood the interior with ample illumination while allowing visitors to pause and take in majestic views of the ocean. 

A rooftop terrace, pool and white sand area are set to complete the facility in the months to come, cementing the Cloudscape of Haikou’s status as a flagship venue like no other.

According to the architects, “as Haikou’s next energetic public space, the library will bring layers of colour and activity to the city.” Designed to hold some 10,000 tomes, it’s not a bad place to get lost in a good book either. 

MAD Architects’ Monumental Library Tops Out in Haikou

The sculptural structure provides a meditative reading sanctuary along the coast of the South China Sea.

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