This magnificent building, designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, opened to the public in 2006. It contains Shenzhen’s central library and Concert Hall/Theatre.

Isozaki was commissioned to build the centre in 1997. In interviews on the construction process, he recounts how very few of the advanced construction techniques necessary for such a sophisticated building were known in China, and how he had, in many cases, to lead from basics. He makes much of the Chinese influence on his architecture: he sees China as the source of all cultural influences in East Asia, but thinks that Japanese practice has softened it. He believes that his approach is basically Chinese with a slight Japanese influence.

The centre has two main buildings, the library and the concert hall. On the side facing the road the buildings give the impression of solid black granite broken by small irregular windows and a primary red-framed light well on each side. But on the side facing the Civic Centre the walls are clear glass and steel, folded and multi-faceted as if Christo had wrapped them in glass. On the Library side the steel frame is silver while on the Concert Hall side the frame is gold.

The effect on the inside is to flood the interior in light. It is as if the central axis and the interiors were one.

If you’re a photographer there are some wonderful shots inside these buildings. The glass overlaid upon the gold and silver framework allows for the framing of some peculiar effects, as does the practice, in the concert hall, of hanging banners advertising shows from the apex of some of the cones of light.


The library, which opened in July 2006, has 4 million volumes and room for 2500 readers at any time. It has an area of 29,612 sq. m. As you would expect, Chinese books dominate, but there is a small, if eccentrically selected, English section on the third floor.

Make sure you take a stroll along the second floor podium walkway and check out the black granite wall of waterfalls on the ground floor facing the Civic Centre.

The Library is open between 9 am and 9 pm.


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