On Oct. 11, the Moriyama RAIC International Prize was awarded to architect Li Xiaodong during the gala at the Aga Khan Museum, for his designs of the Liyuan Library. The RAIC International Prize includes $100,000 (Canadian) and a crystal sculpture by Canadian designer Wei Yew. Established by Raymond Moriyama, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), and the RAIC Foundation, the 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.”
To improve village life and boost the local economy to attract tourists to Jiaojiehe, Li Xiaodong worked with the community for design concepts and to promote funding for the library. Eventually, the Lu Qianshou Trust, a rural-development grant in Hong Kong, funded the $163,600 construction budget for the 175-square-meter site, which opened its doors in May 2012. According to Li’s submission statement to the RAIC, “this project is about the relationship of a building to its surroundings and its role in serving the community, rather than a building as a discrete object.”
To determine the winning project, the six-member jury went beyond the materials submitted by the design teams and conducted interviews with people who have been in the building, and even visited some of the sites. The buildings were judged on criteria that included “its formal and spatial qualities, its response to site, climate and culture, its craftsmanship, environmental design and its record of experience in use.” The project has to be in use for at least two years before they can be eligible for consideration.
In the past two-and-a-half years, the community has experienced a spike of visitors, both nationally and internationally, which demanded a new bus stop close by to accommodate their travels.
“Everybody is free to visit. However, a book exchange system applies,” explained Li. “Visitors are encouraged to bring two books to the library, and take one back home from the collection in order to keep the place a vibrant hub of knowledge exchange.”