The Guangzhou Library is beautiful from the outside with blocks of curving stone laying side by side and a glass corridor connecting them both. The 100 square meter building is well connected with 500 public computers and free wifi with access to Twitter, Facebook, the New York Times, and other sites blocked by the ‘Great Firewall.’
The library is popular amongst the expat community since it has one of the largest collection of non-Chinese language books. The only problem is only half the building is being used. The other half is darkened as there are no books on the shelves. The side opened to the public has many bookshelves with no books on the top floors. It is said to hold over 3.82 million books but either the library has more space than books, or the numbers are wrong. It appears it is all show but no substance and functionality.
Across from the library is the Guangzhou Opera House constructed of glass, steel, and granite. The US$200 Million opera house was designed by internationally renowned architect Zaha Hadid who designed the Innovation Tower at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Architectural critic Jonathan Glancey of The Guardian called it “at once highly theatrical and insistently subtle.” It was built in only five years and started falling apart a year after its opening in 2011. Many of the granite slabs making the outside of the building have been replaced out of fear they would fall off.
“The problems with the quality of the building are not because of the design of the building, but because we did not take the complexity of the design into consideration before we started work,” said Yu Huiyao, the deputy manager of the construction firm charged with building the Opera House told the UK Telegraph Newspaper at the time. The government didn’t respond at the time.
Today, there are still some black marks around the joints connecting the building together. It is easy to see where parts of the building do not fit. A Pizza Hut has taken over one of the restaurant areas. The building still looks like two smooth stones along the Pearl River, but one has to wonder if it will still be up in a few years.