MVRDV, a Dutch architecture firm, teamed up with Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI) to design China’s largest library. Tianjin Binhai Library, which is located in the Binhai Cultural District in Tianjin, covers 33,700m square feet of space, features terraced bookshelves and can store up to 1.2 million books.
The library’s futuristic architecture is a sight to behold, it is based around a mirrored spherical auditorium which is known as the “Eye of Binhai” and looks like a glowing orb. “The Eye is the centre of the library,” MVRDV co-founder Winy Maas said. “It hollows out the building and creates, out of bookshelves, an environment to sit, to read, to hang out, to climb and to access, to create an organic social space. In its heart is the auditorium which mirrors the environment, giving a 360-degree panorama of the space inside; a truly reflective and pensive environment.”
It is important to note that though some shelves contain stacks of books, others have printed aluminum plates that mimic books—a feature that has prompted criticism from people claiming that the much-touted space is “more fiction than books.” Having said that, the atrium definitely boasts a spectacular design and, as such, has already attracted an average of 15,000 visitors on weekends. The library currently contains 200,000 books and has ambitions to grow its collection to 1.2 million.
MVRDV hoped to make the upper terraces of the atrium accessible and filled with books, however, the construction of the library was “fast-tracked” and so the idea had to be dropped against its wishes. Liu Xiufeng, the deputy director of the library said that “We can only use the hall for the purposes for which it has been approved, so we cannot use it as a place to put books.” As a result, most of the books will be stored in traditional rooms and the large atrium will largely be used for other activities.