Liyuan Library Wins Moriyama RAIC International Prize

John Hill
12. October 2014
Photo: Courtesy of RAIC

A library on the outskirts of Beijing, China, designed by architect Li Xiaodong, is the recipient of the inaugural $100,000 Moriyama RAIC International Prize.

Launched in April by the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC), the RAIC Foundation, and RAIC Gold Medal recipient Raymond Moriyama, the biennial prize is given to "an architect, an architecture firm or an architecture collaboration from anywhere in the world for the design of an outstanding building or project." The prize was awarded to Li Xiaodong on Saturday at a ceremony at the new Fumihiko Maki-designed Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.

Photo: Courtesy of RAIC

Per an RAIC statement, "the Moriyama RAIC International Prize is awarded to a building that is judged to be transformative, inspired as well as inspiring, and emblematic of the human values of respect and inclusiveness." The six-member jury described the Liyuan Library, which opened in May 2012 in the hillside village of Jiaojiehe, as "a lovely object in a dramatic landscape, a wondrous thing to use and be in." Jury chair Barry Johns said, "We need more of these types of perhaps modest, yet powerful buildings which make architecture from a deep understanding of people, culture, context, site, materiality and light."

In his submission statement Li Xiaodong described the project as, "about the relationship of a building to its surroundings and its role in serving the community, rather than a building as a discrete object. Instead of adding a new building in the village, we chose this site in the nearby mountains, a pleasant five-minute walk from the village center. In doing so," he said further, "we could provide a setting for clear thoughts when one consciously takes the effort to head for the reading room."

The library, which is free but employs a book-exchange system, has become a popular destination for residents as well as tourists from the Beijing area and overseas; its popularity has necessitated a new bus stop to handle the flow of visitors. Conversations with users, research, and selected site visits by the jurors helped to determine the library's success, important given the prize's emphasis on the consideration of the "building in use." In this vein, eligible buildings must be completed two years before the prize's award, meaning the next Moriyama RAIC International Prize, to be given in 2016, has already been completed...what will it be?

Photo: Courtesy of RAIC
Drawing: Courtesy of RAIC
Li Xiaodong. Photo: Courtesy of RAIC

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