Studio Core II: A Library For Chinatown

The district of Chinatown in South Boston is part of a more extensive network of Chinatown hubs that are all spread across the US. These neighborhoods were formed many decades ago and have contributed to the country's identity, and in this specific case, to the identity of Boston that we know today. However, the rapid urbanization and the need to infrastructurally connect the suburbs with the city changed Chinatown's uniqueness. The aim to connect Boston's suburbs through the Big Dig resulted in Chinatown being split into two parts. Today, there are only fragments left of Chinatown's built heritage. 

The pressure to densify the city center and the shrinking availability of affordable housing are two major reasons why residents are forced to move away from their neighborhoods. In addition, the demographic shift towards an aging population adds to the concerns of the Chinese American heritage to be slowly forgotten. Many homeowners moved away to other enclaves such as Malden or Quincy, which led to numerous historical buildings being sold or demolished to make new, more profitable projects. However, adding and removing parts to densify the city still leaves empty spaces behind that are visible in the built fabric. These urban voids take on different forms, have various reasons for why they exist and have numerous purposes that contribute to the story of the larger context in and around Chinatown.

The empty spaces and their program of use in Chinatown range from parking spaces, abandoned lots, brownfields, but also parks, playgrounds, squares, etc. This diversity indicates that the void itself can be understood as a space for potential that acts as a positive contributor to the area's character.

Our plot R1 is another larger urban void of Chinatown that is currently used for parking and is soon designated for another form of use. The empty space that means the unbuilt state adds to the story of the neighborhood. The void (Terrain Vague) itself is vital and precious as the solid when analyzing existing systems. And more importantly, it has the potential to be used as a space to gather and exchange. Rather than the conventional way of designing a library by maximizing the surface area on the plot, this library aims to use the potential of the urban void as the method to foreground Chinatown's neighborhood by nesting all the communal activities within the void itself. All other non-communal infrastructural programs of the library are pushed to the border in the form of a ring that captures this void.

When looking closer at the different characteristic parts of the library, there is a clear distinction between the outer infrastructural ring and the inner world, which is also reflected in the façade expression itself. The layout of the communal geodes is left flexibly and can be arranged according to the activity. The variability of those common areas stands in contrast to the rigid outer ring that mainly stores books and other service-related programs. The communal geodes are connected to the ground floor and the pillars that structurally hold up the outer ring. This openness allows for continuity of the central void on the horizontal level, which links with the street level. The entire ground floor can be used even when the library is closed at night. The most significant space lies within the large empty space and is surrounded by all three communal volumes. This nested void is considered an additional outdoor space where larger events for the community of Chinatown can take place.