© 2008-2016 Alexandra Gens   
Blue Roof Network
Advisor Wang Shu    Context China Academy of Art, Fall 2014 - Spring 2015

0, Overview
This is the visual and highly condensed form of my written thesis which I successfully defended to earn my master's degree from the China Academy of Art, spring 2015. This laid the crucial groundwork for my degree project, Sanlan Pavilion and New GCA, examples of which follow the research below.

As the institution of the modern public library faces the crucial and difficult task of its digitalization, it must consider its nature as a public space as well as the possibility of being an archive of atypical forms of knowledge. Understanding knowledge as composed of statements and discourses instead of sentences and books, the Ming and Qing libraries of China offer a great variety of case studies. What about these archives allowed such a wide variety of knowledge exchanges and what do they offer as models for reimagining the libraries of the future?

1, Knowledge and Skill Archiving
Traditionally there lies a great divide between "knowledge" and "skill," and conventionally the library has only concerned itself with the former. Yet, as the role of the public library is inherently bound to the betterment and provision of learning resources to its patrons, the global phenomena of disappearing skills should sit at the core of how the library configures itself for the future. The gaining presence of cyclical consumerism nourishes itself on a public that lacks the resources and skills to repair their possessions. The global rise of obesity runs parallel to an increasingly nutrition and food preparation ignorant population, especially in the United States. The import of modern building methods into China has seen the irretrievable loss of construction practices that define a cultural identity. In these examples the traditional structures that upheld the continuation of these skills (family, education, various industries, etc) have evolved away from their necessities. Just as it might protect an ancient text, the library of the future should protect these learned acts of knowledge.

1.1, Tianyi Pavilion as model for hyper-functional archive




One of Sanlan Pavilion's practice rooms ― New GCA's recording booth/



Sanlan Pavilion's book shelves and computer desk ― New GCA's double floor book shelves/


1.2, Wenyuan Pavilion as model for lecture hall/archive overlap






Sanlan Pavilion's performance and audience space ― New GCA's lecture and social gathering hall/


1.3, Yilun Hall as model for open footprint makerspaces




Sanlan Pavilion's big makerspace, first floor ― New GCA's big makerspace, first floor/


1.4, Jade Sea Chamber as model for small scale makerspaces


Sanlan Pavilion's rearrrangable workstations ― New GCA's rearrrangable workstations/


2, Place-ness
One obstacle of digitization is the digital's lack of place, and thus its inability or difficulty in serving as a civic gathering space. In the discussion of archiving knowledge it is critical to remember one of the public library's most important functions: a public place which "has been created by the social relations gathered and situated by library architecture." This distinctive space defines the center of a community and polity, but virtual space is comprehensive, it spans the globe. Its very scale and lack of selectivity means it can easily fail to provide an open, accessible platform for a single community. All of this begs the question: can the architecture of digital texts and virtual space create a sense of place that performs the functions of architecture in a public library?

2.1, The Seven Halls and the cultural signifigance of linked identity




Sanlan Pavilion's blue metal roofs ―New GCA's blue metal roofs/



/Sanlan Pavilion's appearance of exposed columns and suggested courtyard geometry, both to reference Shuangxi's abandoned family hall ― New GCA's perceived thinness and mirrored facade geometry, both to reference the original George C. Arnold Building across the street



/Example of the Blue Roof worldwide network.


2.2, Wenyuan & Wenlan Pavilions as models for site integration






Sanlan Pavilion's land contour following foundation ― One of New GCA's plant spaces/


2.3, The Couple's Retreat Garden and the relationship betwen archive & site




/Sanlan Pavilion's large windows and mountain entrance ― New GCA's large windows and thinness to draw the city closer


3, The Everyday
Historically, libraries in both China and the United States played a more prominent role in the everyday lives of their patrons. In China, the Cangshu Lou overlapped greatly with the institution of the family as the building was typically built within a family compound. Socially the Cangshu Lou also played a crucial role: the exchange of books and the entertaining of guests so that they might copy from an owner's collection became an important social exchange many literati participated in. In the United States, the social lending libraries, foundations of the modern public library, were founded and built their collections on the specific negotiated requests of individual patrons. In the example of Rhode Island's Providence Athenaeum, the social library's archive was located in the City Hall, the very space where laws were debated and passed.

In both these typologies, the owners and patrons were active in the use and formation of the collection. As Mark Wigley presents, an idle archive is not an archive. It only performs its role when it is utilized. A typical notion of an archive is a place that safeguards relics against the decay of time and use. "However, the act of archiving really happens when the archive emerges through the voice of a particular individual or character. Thus, the archiving gesture protects documents by projecting them rather than concealing them" (Wigley, Unleashing the Archive, p. 13). This notion of activity pairs closely with the idea of an archive that coexists with daily life; the success lies in its continuous use and conscious forming and reforming.

3.1, Wenxuan & Cehai Buildings and archive/household integration



/Sanlan Pavilion's visiting scholar residence ― Original GCA renovated to host local and visiting residents


3.2, Yu Garden's private library and the importance of social gathering space


/Sanlan Pavilion's small social gathering space, 2nd floor ― New GCA's small social gathering space, 3rd floor


3.3, Kuiwen Pavilion as a model for central/axial placement




/GCA and New GCA central location in Providence, Rhode Island



/Sanlan Pavilion's location away from Shuangxi's abandoned Ancestral Hall, anticipating growth in the western valley and offering a new village center


3.4, Yushu Building as a model for creating a visual datum






/Sanlan Pavilion's elevation ― New GCA's wide view corridor