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Designer fuses traditional and modern lines in library
By Li Anlan

TAIWAN designer Ray Chou came to Shanghai 12 years ago to learn more about a city he’d only read of in books. His interest was in public buildings and making them more attractive and efficient.

That ambition has been further realized in his team’s latest work, the new Jiading Library, which featured in Interior Design magazine’s 2013 Best of Year awards.

The library features a fusion of the traditional jiangnan architecture style that is native to Jiading District, and modern lines reflected in its use of warm wooden ceilings, walls and reading desks.

The natural minimalist sense of openness creates a relaxed and balanced environment for the readers.

Not just a place for borrowing and reading books, it caters for all sections of society with auditoriums for academic presentations as well as a cafe.

The distinctive design, as well as abundant storage space for books, modern facilities and convenient services, has helped attract visitors to the library.

Library staff say that some readers even take a one-hour Metro trip from downtown Shanghai to spend some time there.

Born in Taiwan in 1972, Chou graduated from Fu Jen Catholic University in the island, majoring in interior design, in 1995.

In 1997 he went to Spain and received his Master of Fine Art with a major in interior design from University Politecnica de Catalunya.

He said he chose to come to China’s mainland because he had been impressed by what he had been reading about.

Over 400 design projects

“I’d never seen it, the Shanghai glamor or the Forbidden City in Beijing,” Chou said. “It’s like reading art history about Picasso or Monet’s paintings. I have to come to the mainland and look at the places that I’m so familiar with but never saw in person.”

In 2002, he came to Shanghai and founded the Vermilion Zhou Design Group with lighting design director Vera Chu. Since then, they have completed over 400 interior design projects in China from public areas, commercial spaces, hotels and clubhouses to offices and high-end residences.

Compared with commercial projects, designing public space projects have a special value, Chou said.

Commercial spaces focus on making profits and impose certain rules on designers, while a public space is to serve the public.

“When we design public spaces, our fundamental goal is to serve the people. We add aesthetics so more can experience beauty,” he said. “The charge for commercial space is much more than public spaces, but I’m willing to dedicate what I’ve learned to design public spaces.”

Dedication to public cases

Besides the library, the team has worked on three other public space projects in Jiading: the State-owned Assets Center, the Xincheng public buildings and Han Tianheng Art Museum.

Chou values traditional Chinese culture and history and promotes contemporary Chinese design.

“My effort is also part of reviving Chinese culture, the parts of life and space, and how we express contemporary Chinese design,” he added.

Before designing the Jiading library, Chou and the team toured famous sites in Jiading to gain inspiration.

They went to the Qiuxiapu classical Chinese garden, the Confucius Temple and the entire old town, and even climbed the Fahua Pagoda, trying to get the sense of the district and understand the humanity of Jiading.

Highlighting the local jiangnan style in the design, Chou said: “We created a modern Confucius temple, a place where people can read and study, though in more dynamic and various ways.”

Another special design with the library is the bookshelves, said Chou.

“I left the window areas for people to sit, while setting bookshelves by the inner walls,” he said.

“We used lower displays. The shelves are tall only near the wall, and lower near the sitting area, thus providing users more space to breathe,” Chou explained.

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