If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this eye shaped library is truly beautiful. But there is a little snag that people who travel here have found. Located in Tianjin, China’s cultural centre, the Tianjin Binhai Public Library’s atrium is purposely designed to look like a giant eye, formed by different levels of bookshelves surrounding the spherical auditorium at the center.  This China architecture marvel, spread over 33,700m2, was built by a Dutch firm, MVRDV.

The opening of this futuristic library went viral but look closer and you’ll see that the main hall actually has images printed on it, not real books! Well, there are a few, scattered across but the books are actually stored in traditional rooms with normal shelves. Though that doesn’t take away from the stunning, futuristic China architecture design.

The eye is the focal point

The five-story high undulating bookshelves not only frame the building’s space, but serve as stairs, seating, and even louvres on the façade. Areas for children and the elderly to read are located on the ground floor.

Reading rooms and lounges are on the first and second floors. Upper floors are set to be used for meeting rooms, offices, computer rooms and two rooftop terraces.  The overall space can hold 1.2 million books.

tianjin-binhai-library china

The undulating space

The tight construction schedule forced one essential part of the concept to be dropped: access to the upper bookshelves from rooms placed behind the atrium. This change was made locally and against MVRDV’s advice and rendered access to the upper shelves currently impossible. The full vision for the library may be realised in the future, but until then perforated aluminium plates printed to represent books on the upper shelves. Cleaning is done via ropes and movable scaffolding.

Ossip van Duivenbode, courtesy of MVRDV

Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV stated, “The Tianjin Binhai Library interior is almost cave-like, a continuous bookshelf. … We opened the building by creating a beautiful public space inside; a new urban living room is its centre. The bookshelves are great spaces to sit and at the same time allow for access to the upper floors. The angles and curves are meant to stimulate different uses of the space, such as reading, walking, meeting and discussing. Together they form the ‘eye’ of the building: to see and be seen.”

Ossip van Duivenbode, courtesy of MVRDV

Ossip van Duivenbode, courtesy of MVRDV

The library is one of five cultural buildings, designed by numerous international architects, that will be connected by a public glass canopy corridor forming a new cultural centre for the Binhai district of Tianjin.

It was built in the record-breaking time span of only three years due to a tight timetable set by the municipality. The library was built to the Chinese Green Star energy efficiency label and has achieved a two star status.

Source: MVRDV

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