The Ark

The Ark – Libraries in the age of the Anthropocene


Status: Competition

Type: Library

Project location: Tokyo

Architects: Rita John, Thomas Oommen, Devya Goel



Libraries (and Anti-Libraries) of the 21st century are either magnificent mausoleums to books and conventional notions of reading (see this competitions brief) or meaningless apologias to digital screens (see competition entries for libraries).

Consider the following banal realities:

  1. The human species is already a cyborg plugged into the information superhighway for whom the ‘library’ is not a point or a place but an infinite grid:  everywhere and nowhere.
  2. Already, every surface can be turned into a screen and screens themselves are increasingly redundant.
  3. Books were once a public technology that revolutionalized human civilization by disseminating knowledge. Today Google Books, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook have taken over.
  4. All of the above become redundant as tsunamis hit, temperatures rise, ice caps melt and the sea gains on our cities inch by inch. Even so, in what appears to be a collective delusion, humans continue to ignore the slow but inevitable countdown to planetary catastrophe.

This project rejects recycling cliched epistemological dilemmas of how libraries help in sieving “knowledge” from “information” as well as be nostalgic preoccupations with how to phenomenologically reconquer libraries as ‘cultural centers’.  For us the problem of the library is connected to a larger question of resilience and survival in an age of climate catastrophes and rising sea levels. In other words, it is part of an emergency protocol for ensuring the survival of human knowledge in the face of the greatest deluge since perhaps “Noah built his Ark”.