New Japan, Old Japan / Gifu library design fuses nature, community spirit

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A panoramic view of the interior of the Gifu City Chuo Library on Oct. 10

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun PhotographerGIFU — Many people are leisurely reading books and magazines under huge umbrella-like structures hanging from a wavy, latticed wood roof.

This is the Gifu City Chuo Library.

There are no walls to be seen. The bookshelves are low and positioned as if radiating from the umbrella-like structures. Conversations are allowed. Children’s voices sometimes fill the air.

The library is the successor to a former city library that had been used for over half a century. The new library plays a key role in Minna no Mori Gifu Media Cosmos, a multipurpose facility that opened in July last year. The facility is a two-story building stretching 90 meters by 80 meters. The library occupies the entirety of the building’s second floor and part of its first floor. The facility is located in the city’s central area, on a site previously occupied by Gifu University’s School of Medicine.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Visitors pick up and read books under a globe, an umbrella-like fabric light shade. Underneath it are sofas made of artificial rattan.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A visitor reads a book on a terrace facing Mt. Kinka, a symbol of Gifu.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Stairs lead to the library’s entrance on the second floor.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The Hidamari Terrace is illuminated at dusk.

The library was born out of a proposal by Gifu Mayor Shigemitsu Hosoe, who called for a public space that functions not just as a library, but also as a place where many people can gather and something special is created. Internationally acclaimed architect Toyo Ito then designed the space based on such themes as harmony with the natural environment, local communities and ties among people, while listening to opinions of local elementary school students. Toshihide Masukawa, a Nobel laureate in physics, serves as the facility’s honorary director.

The 11 umbrella-like structures, called globes, are made of polyester and nonwoven fabric. In addition to their visually appealing design, they provide functions such as ventilation and lighting. Energy consumption inside the facility is considerably reduced as it utilizes such measures as air circulation facilitated by the wavy ceiling, solar power generation and underground-water-source air conditioning. Outdoor terraces for reading in open air have also been installed along three sides of the building.

Adopting the natural environment as the building’s design motif has led to multiple spaces that slightly differ in temperature and brightness. Thus visitors can spend time at a place that suits them according to their feelings and physical condition that day.

“The library is like a plaza with a roof, where the walls between the inside and the outside have been removed,” said library director Nobuo Yoshinari. “We aim at creating a comfortable place where visitors want to stay for a long time and return often.”

A 32-year-old mother reading a picture book to her children, an infant and a 2-year-old, said: “The library is like a huge house and makes me feel relaxed.”

Gifu is a city with a population of about 410,000, but the total number of visits to the library in its first year was about 1.16 million, surpassing the municipal government’s target. It passed 1.42 million by the end of September this year.

The number of people who newly registered at the library in its first year was about 30,000, about 40 times the number the former library recorded in its final fiscal year. The number of books borrowed from the library during its first year was 1.42 million, an increase of about 11 times. Also, more than 7,000 people have visited the library on tours.

(New Japan, Old Japan is a series exclusive to The Japan News)Speech

[Released on Oct. 24, 2016]


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