You’re reading by a balcony that faces a stream when you notice the squirrel. He is the red-bellied species, and sports a bushy tail that seems to have a life of its own. He darts between branches effortlessly, nipping at something held between his tiny hands. He does a sudden U-turn and….wait a minute. Aren’t you supposed to be reading? At the Taipei Public Library, Beitou, you’re sure to find it difficult to concentrate on reading if you’re a nature-lover.

The library that sits amid trees and a stream in Beitou district of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is as much a haven for nature-lovers as book-lovers. We visit the library on a rainy afternoon in April — the air smells of fresh earth and green leaves. Located inside the Beitou Park, the library is a ‘green building’ — its construction ensures that it consumes minimal resources and produces minimal waste.

For instance, it has tall windows on three sides to let in sunlight and breeze. This reduces the use of artificial lights. It is only in summer that the library uses air conditioners; for the rest of the year, breeze from the surrounding woods keep it cool. The roofs are sloped to collect rainwater. Grace Li, our volunteer tour guide, explains that rainwater from the roof is collected in a reservoir and pumped up for use in the toilets and the garden.

“The building is shaped like a cruise ship,” points out Li. This helps accommodate the eco-friendly features. Each structure, be it the vine-covered walls or the water-permeable pavements, has been built for a purpose. The former reduces reflective radiation and the latter helps in rainwater harvest. Solar panels on the roof produce about 40KW of electricity per day. “This provides for 10 per-cent of electricity used in the building,” explains Grace.

It’s amazing how the trees outside embrace the building — a cool, green haze follows us around as we walk about. Inside, no bookshelf is over 110cm. Tall shelves tend to block sunlight and the amazing view outside, says Li. The entire building is built out of recyclable material such as steel and wood, she adds.

The extended balcony is perhaps one of the best spots to read. One could sit there for hours forgetting time and space. As with every structure inside the building, the balcony’s railings tell a story of their own. The railings are not straight – they zigzag about the northern side. This is because the architects believe that straight lines are artificial. They feel that Nature has its little imperfections that make it beautiful all the more.

The library was opened in November 2006

It received the Diamond level (top-most) rating n Taiwan’s green building certification system called EEWH

The Beitou hot spring valley is a 15-minute walk from the library

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Location Beitou, Taipei

Owner Taipei Public Library

Architect Bio-Architecture Formosana