Macau Central Library creates a warm welcome for visitors

9 June 2021
  • Mecanoo
  • Mecanoo
  • Mecanoo



Macau Central Library, Macau by Mecanoo

Designed by Tenderstream member, Mecanoo, the new 15,000 sqm Macau Central Library will be located by Tap Seac square in the historic centre of Macau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is situated on the site of the former Hotel Estoril (designed by the Macau-born Portuguese architect, Alfredo Victor Jorge Álvares), which was the first casino resort in Macau, opening in 1962, and has been vacant since the 1990s.

Libraries are dynamic and continually changing. While clearly a contemporary structure within a traditional context, the new Central Library will provide a forward-thinking platform for influencing its surroundings. The adjacent square will become an integral part of the library, creating an activated public realm, which will encourage visitors to use all the public amenities that new library can offer.

The façade takes inspiration from the former modernist design of Hotel Estoril by filtering the light and creating a controlled indoor climate. An intriguing play of light and shadow is projected onto the floor and walls of the library. The continuous ‘L’ shape that defines the library volume and its uniform façade helps to redefine the square. 

The façade pattern acts as an extension of the bookshelves, from the inside out, from stack to protective shell. The uniform skin wraps the library volume and opens up like a book page to the main entrance facing Tap Seac square. This welcoming gesture is an essential part of the relationship between library and square.

Rather than imagining the new Central Library simply as a cultural destination in Macau, Mecanoo’s design proposal is built around the idea of creating a journey – one that commences at city level via Tap Seac Square and continues through a series of interconnected spaces, leading visitors all the way to the large reading rooms situated at the top level of the building.  The futurist mural designed by the Italian sculptor Oseo Acconci depicting Fortuna, the Roman goddess of chance, is preserved and integrated it in the new lobby welcoming the visitors.

Within the library, a soaring atrium opens to the uppermost levels of the building, allowing visitors to orientate themselves immediately to the activities within, and inspiring them to move upwards through the library. As visitors move upwards via the spacious tribunes, the building offers unique views out to the mountains and Tap Seac Square. 

The current central library is also located by the same square and will continue serving as a more of an archival library after the new building has been taken into use. The key to the future success of the library lies in being inclusive, open and accessible. A place where everyone feels they belong.

Lucy Nordberg
Tenderstream Head of Research

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