‘Vision of a World Library with 4 Million books’
My Aspiration is for Singapore to be the Heart and Soul of the World.
Embarking on the Journey to Create a ‘World Library’ with 4 Million Books
The National Library – Singapore
19 July 1993
The submission of the conceptual design for the National Library in Singapore is a declaration of principle. We sincerely hope that it will be acknowledged by the responsible authorities as a step in the right direction and will lead to a direct dialogue with the Client to establish the final brief.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Sunflower Chong, who invited us to prepare the architectural design drawings based on her original idea of the pyramid. Sami Mousawi International has known Sunflower since 1985 when she introduced a new, advanced technology (GRC) into the construction of the infill panels of the upper-inner domes on the State Mosque of Sarawak. During her involvement in the project, she demonstrated great confidence and care in her work, together with an appreciation of our architectural identity based on the concept of a true contemporary interpretation of the cultural heritage of the place.
Sunflower has demonstrated recently, through the medium of her poems, articles and her various publications, her total commitment to art and architecture as the roots of our cultural heritage and as instruments to enhance our quality of life, based on the concept of unity and harmony.
Library of Alexandria – (MUST WATCH THIS!!!) Documentary
Published on Mar 10, 2017,
The information held within those library walls will never be recovered. I am fascinated with the concept of making oneself aware of as much information as possible, as not to be blinded by total ignorance. Therefore, I am thankful to even have the awareness that such a library existed. Nonetheless, nothing happens by chance, thus its destruction, obviously inevitable. Knowledge is accessible to all and is an inalienable right. So, if one knocks, the door will be opened and if one seeks, he shall find. Knowledge is inherent in every human being and the pursuit thereof is essential to knowing thyself.
‘The World Library’
Our achievement over 30 years of progress is something spectacular and admired by many throughout the world. But at the same time, I realize that we have been turning into selfish individuals, striving for economic success, while neglecting to strength our moral values.
This is unhealthy. As we need a balance in order to create a compassionate society. What has really happened to us? We are well-educated people. Also, we have a strong cultural background, with our multi-racial cultures spanning thousands of years in Asian history. Then, why are we still facing these serious problems?
I observe that we are not confident of who we are, which means that we have not attained our identity as Singaporeans. Sadly we have neglected to cultivate values, which provide stability for growth and create a strong foundation with heart, soul, and character.
Singapore is a youthful society and our future will be in the hands of this younger generation. When they are challenged to search for true answers and strong values that would mold their lives, they would be taking the right step towards an optimistic future. Therefore, Singapore’s prosperity and progress cannot rest on one man’s shoulder. Instead, our continued success calls for the participation of the whole nation by taking the right direction and believing in us. I have a deep desire for Singaporeans to achieve a strong identity and culture that is distinctly Singaporean.
I believe that art is the cornerstone of unity; therefore I recognize that Singapore Arts center will be the foundation to hold us together. In addition, the center will be the tool to perpetuate the process of nation-building and act as a hallmark of our achievements in establishing our identity as Singaporeans.
I strongly believe another tool to cultivate values and nurture minds are the National Library. Contemporary architecture can interpret the cultural heritage of the place and act as a communicator. This means that if we can build a grand library with a great concept to inculcate values and generosity, we will be able to reach our goal of excellence.
Singapore’s nation-building is based on paper qualifications, but the young need to understand that education is not about getting straight A’s. Education is a means to knowledge, and both are worthwhile pursuits. While we all need goals to live by, knowledge should not be considered the ultimate goal. Wisdom is also not the answer, but a guidepost to our goals. Our answer is to let architecture speak to the people.
Great architecture evolves from our minds and can transform the society for the better. The design created for the national library must express the culture and history of Asia, as well as the modernity of our times. It must not only impact upon people’s value system. It must also be exciting and imaginative to attract even those who are not ‘booklovers’. If this place is warm and exciting, it will arouse their curiosity to visit and revisit the library and develop an insatiable appetite for knowledge and understanding.
This building must represent the new image of modern Singapore as the center of South East Asia. It will portray Singaporeans as a united people with a mind of their own, and as fun-loving people, who are intellectual, appreciate a quality of life and possess an understanding of our existence.
This library is designed for people to interact freely. It should be a library that accommodates the different needs of people. Such a library will challenge Singaporeans to achieve and excel intellectually. When they step into this building, it will give them a feeling of hope and when they leave this place, it must give them a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and fulfillment. This should be the direction we must steer in taking a leadership role.
An idea for the exterior is to use the shape of the pyramid. This shape symbolizes a storehouse brimming with information and the apex of the pyramid represents the infinite wealth of knowledge to be gained.
Two faces of the pyramid will use ‘glass curtain wall’ made from a special glass to give a rainbow effect. The ‘rainbow’ represents hope for the people. Its colorful hues arch across the glass curtain wall and at the rainbow’s end is the ‘pot of gold’ – cocooned within the pyramid faces, one finds the library. The mood in this area is serious; to remind us that knowledge is precious and must be acquired conscientiously in order for us to progress and develop in the right direction. The library is also spacious, giving one a sense of assurance that our quest for knowledge will be satisfied and the desire to harness our imaginations will be fulfilled, uninhibited by the pressures of the outside world.
The other two sides of the pyramid will be open, framed by a gradient of tiered balconies. The opened sides will give one a sense of freedom to explore, discover and relax. The openness represents our generosity as a society, who is willing to share our wealth of knowledge and experiences with the world. (This is why the open-air section must face the sea). Knowledge gained becomes a loss if it does not benefit the advancement of society. A selfish society is a ‘dead’ society. Similarly, a selfish individual is detrimental to society because it festers greed and callousness.
To symbolize the controlled outflow of knowledge from its absorption on its dissemination of information, we would construct a ‘jumping’ water fountain along the edge of the ‘glass curtain wall’. The whole idea to introduce water to the library is to remind us knowledge is precious, just like water. Water represents life and knowledge gained, must be kept alive, give us hope to progress in life.
The steady flow of water will eventually run quietly from the closed section through the open section and then rush into the surroundings like a waterfall, where a beautiful tropical open-air restaurant will await the guests. How exhilarating and inspiring to observe such a view, with the restaurant set at the foot of a hill, so this means that the elevation of the ‘glass curtain wall’ and the tiered balconies are different.
The creation of the ‘pyramid library’ epitomizes my belief that architecture can educate people. To create a building with deep values and philosophical thoughts are to design for the well being of our people. Education is not just for survival but also to cultivate a beautiful soul. Subconsciously, I have labored to implant deep values into the crevices of young minds, who are wandering aimlessly in search of their potential and identity. I hope that this library will eventually grow to be a visual inspiration for the youth to search for a deeper meaning of life and to be a scholastic catalyst to reach an understanding of our existence.
To make this world a better place for all, we need to understand that it is time for us, as individuals, to share and care in every way, even giving a submission like the National Library because we need the authority to feel us through our work.
The open-and closed concept of the ‘pyramid library’ is designed to inculcate the value that knowledge is worth gaining and once acquired, must be shared with others. When selfishly hoarded, the learner will stagnate. At the same time, the design should provoke people to think and question life, thus forcing them to share within their soul to harvest their potential and stir their social conscience. Once Singaporeans begin to care for the well being of their fellowmen, the nation will flourish.
The ultimate success of our national library can only be reached when Singaporeans collectively appreciate the value of gaining knowledge and endorse the principle of sharing it. The ‘pyramid library’ will simply be a projection of these beliefs and act as a constant reminder to hold fast to our values as we move forward into the 21st Century.
The future success of our children depends on how many sacrifices we are willing to make as leaders and parents. Therefore the understanding of their needs is our first priority to enable them to reach this goal. We must not wait any longer; instead, we must advance positively in enriching our souls and allowing our minds to be adventurous to challenge new ideas and experiences.