Architecture

China's library of the future has an eye on design

China's library of the future ...
The undulating shelves blur the outside and inside of the Tianjin Binhai Library
The undulating shelves blur the outside and inside of the Tianjin Binhai Library
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The upper shelves were originally intended to be accessible from rooms behind
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The upper shelves were originally intended to be accessible from rooms behind
The outer facade of the Tianjin Binhai Library
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The outer facade of the Tianjin Binhai Library
The undulating shelves blur the outside and inside of the Tianjin Binhai Library
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The undulating shelves blur the outside and inside of the Tianjin Binhai Library
The Tianjin Binhai Library comprises five levels
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The Tianjin Binhai Library comprises five levels
This giant Tianjin Binhai Library can hold 1.2 million books
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This giant Tianjin Binhai Library can hold 1.2 million books
The sphere in the middle of the Tianjin Binhai Library houses an auditorium
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The sphere in the middle of the Tianjin Binhai Library houses an auditorium
The Tianjin Binhai Library is colloquially referred to as "The Eye on Binhai"
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The Tianjin Binhai Library is colloquially referred to as "The Eye on Binhai"
The shelves become a strange topographical structure that people can climb over
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The shelves become a strange topographical structure that people can climb over
Unfortunately the upper shelf books are fake
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Unfortunately the upper shelf books are fake
The fake books are aluminum plates which seem to show repetitive designs
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The fake books are aluminum plates which seem to show repetitive designs
Despite the artificial books, the structure is incredibly impressive
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Despite the artificial books, the structure is incredibly impressive
The library can be found in Tianjin
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The library can be found in Tianjin
The shelves look like a topographical map
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The shelves look like a topographical map
The scale of the shelves is spectacular
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The scale of the shelves is spectacular
Sit anywhere and grab a book to read
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Sit anywhere and grab a book to read
The Tianjin Binhai Library an impressive achievement in architecture and engineering
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The Tianjin Binhai Library an impressive achievement in architecture and engineering
Early diagrams of the building
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Early diagrams of the building
Early plans for the library
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Early plans for the library
Thematic ideas that guided the design
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Thematic ideas that guided the design
Original renders of the design before construction
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Original renders of the design before construction
Original renders of the design before construction
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Original renders of the design before construction
Original renders of the design before construction
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Original renders of the design before construction
The sphere in the centre of the library was originally intended to be reflective
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The sphere in the centre of the library was originally intended to be reflective
View gallery - 23 images

It's not unusual for bold Dutch design firm MVRDV to create strikingly experimental structures, after all this is the company to have given us everything from a transparent office tower to a house shaped like the letter "Y". Now it has delivered one of the most unique-looking libraries we've ever seen, the Tianjin Binhai Library.

The remarkable library, collaboratively designed with the Tianjin urban planning and design institute (TUPDI), is concentrated around a giant sphere that houses an auditorium. Viewed through an eye-shaped window in the building's facade, the auditorium appears as a pupil, with the design leading the library to become colloquially known as "the Eye of Binhai."

Surrounding this giant sphere are terraced bookshelves resembling a layered topographical map that continues upward into the ceiling.

"The Tianjin Binhai Library interior is almost cave-like, a continuous bookshelf," explains Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV.

The sphere in the middle of the Tianjin Binhai Library houses an auditorium
The sphere in the middle of the Tianjin Binhai Library houses an auditorium

As well as holding books, the undulating shelves act as both stairs and seating, allowing people to comprehensively inhabit the space. Maas describes the design as an "urban living room."

"The bookshelves are great spaces to sit and at the same time allow for access to the upper floors," Maas adds. "The angles and curves are meant to stimulate different uses of the space, such as reading, walking, meeting and discussing."

The fake books are aluminum plates which seem to show repetitive designs
The fake books are aluminum plates which seem to show repetitive designs

Our first question after seeing this impressive design was, "how does someone reach the books that are on the shelves near the roof?" Disappointingly it turns out the books on the upper shelves are fake aluminum plates. This was not the original intent of MVRDV's designers though. The initial plan was to build access to the upper shelf books from rooms placed behind them in the atrium. During construction this design aspect was cut, against the suggestions of MVRDV, resulting in no access to the upper shelves.

The entire building was constructed over just three years – from first sketch to public opening. And even with unusable upper shelves the library can hold a reported 1.2 million books. Ultimately, this is another fantastically odd architectural achievement from one of the more experimental large scale firms out there.

Source: MVRDV

View gallery - 23 images
4 comments
flylowguy
They should design a breathable air delivery system for the interior. By the time this project is built, the Beijing air will be so thick you will have to bite it and chew it.
ljaques
What a horrible waste of space and energy. It's pretty and cool, but only about 10% of the space is usable, and 80% of the shelving is -fake- books? Coupled with the enormous cost of building that thing and paying the architect, they are pulling the same crap our bureaucrats have here. What a total sin that thing is. They could build -ten- functional libraries with the money that will cost. Alternatively, they could have built the library which housed all the books and had money left over to digitize all the books for use in Kindles, which is what new readers are using. Heck, I'm 64 and was a heavy library user before I bought my first Kindle. Now, I use it or the Fire for most media functions, both books and movies. And Will's right about the air. It will need to be heavily filtered to keep the books from rotting in the Beijing air.
Oren.E
@WillamLeuks, They have already built it...
sk8dad
The aluminum "books" must be taking the place of books that were deemed not suitable for reading by the central government censorship agency.