The world’s largest library reading space with a 16m tall glass facade.

The new library offers a contemporary yet timeless space for learning, knowledge sharing and open discussions, as well as celebrating the cultural richness of Beijing and China at large. Aiming to set new standards for sustainable library design, the Beijing Sub-Central Library has become distinctly different to conventional libraries, utilising technology, smart design and local resources. Eckersley O’Callaghan has been involved during schematic design only, appointed as Snohetta’s sub-consulsultant, for the design of the glass facade, terracotta plinth cladding and glass skylights.

We undertook the design of the pleated glass facade through Finite Element Analysis (FEA) modelling. It is the first self-supporting glass facade in China and because of its highly transparent nature, the library reveals itself and its inner activities to passers-by, inviting them into the generous space. Design of self-supporting pleated glass had to include allowance for movement and tolerance of the slender roof. Also included in the scope was the reduction the glass facade height on the east and west elevation to create natural solar shading and improve energy efficiency.


The design of the terracotta plinth required analysis to investigate into using different supporting and fabrication methods for the terracotta as well as factoring in the limitations of local sourcing. The glass skylights have been designed to mimic the organic shape created at the intersection between the structural “tree” columns, while rationalising the shape to deal with the fabrication limits of the components.

Beijing, China

Beijing Municipal Commission of Planning and Natural Resources


Zhu Yumeng