Liyuan Library – Stick Memories

I came across an article in the recent Azure magazine titled Brand New Chapter written by Dan Levin about the new Liyuan Library in the Chinese village of Huairou located 2 hours from central Beijing.  The library, designed and built by Beijing architect Li Xiaodong, helped resurrect the once forgotten rural village into a bustling weekend retreat for city dwellers.  Upon visiting the village Li was “struck by the villagers close ties to the seasonal rhythms of nature and how natural textures define their constructed world, particularly the ritual of gathering sticks from the surrounding hills; they tie them in bundles for firewood and store outside their homes.”  In his plans for the library Li decided to convey the ‘gathering of sticks’ philosophy into his design with a 2-storey steel frame building clad in 40,000 sticks.  Nestled in a valley below the Great Wall of China, the library has become a sanctuary devoted to reading and a natural site for nesting birds.

 After reading this article I was reminded of a childhood memory of the gathering of sticks.  Seasonal rhythms are no more prevalent than here in Canada.  With the changing of seasons we learn to adapt our life to nature.  Our lifestyles change, our activities change with the changing seasons.  For example, in summer time our activities are swimming, biking etc. whereas in winter our activities are hockey, skiing etc.  When I was a kid everybody’s brother played hockey.  More brothers, more time spent at the hockey arena.  I have 2 brothers so I spent a lot of time at the hockey arena.  I remember hearing about one particular father who used his time spent at the arena in the gathering of sticks – broken, discarded hockey sticks.  Hockey sticks back then were made of hardwood, often birch, ash or maple and it was sad to think that after breaking from a hard slap shot these beautiful pieces of wood were castoffs.  But this father had a vision; a repurposing idea.  After years of collecting many sticks, this father with great pride and workmanship paneled his ‘rec room’ walls with hockey sticks!  Except they were no longer hockey sticks, they were beautiful pieces of hardwood applied to the wall vertically to create a natural wall treatment.  How very industrious and green-thinking of this father.  Bravo!

All images courtesy of Li Xiaodong

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