Looking like something out of a Kubrick film, the new Tianjin Binhai Library by MVRDV and local firm TUPDI features cascading floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that double as benches centered around a luminous sphere. From outside, the library has the appearance of a mysterious eye, with the layered interior elements acting as louvres for the facade. Gaze up at the walls from ground level and it seems like the books just keep going and going, all the way to the ceiling. The library contains an incredible 1.2 million books.
Designed and built in just three years, the Tianjin Binhai Library is located in the cultural center of Binhai district in the coastal city of Tianjin, outside of Beijing, China. It’s part of a complex of cultural buildings by prominent international architects, which are all connected by a glass canopy. The building has already become known locally as ‘The Eye.’
“The Tianjin Binhai Library interior is almost cave-like, a continuous bookshelf. Not being able to touch the building’s volume we ‘rolled’ the ball shaped auditorium demanded by the brief into the building and the building simply made space for it, as a ‘hug’ between media and knowledge” says Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV. “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.”
Along the edges of the interior, beyond those undulating walls, various educational facilities can be found on five levels. A subterranean service space holds even more books as well as a large archive. Books for children and the elderly are located at the lowest levels, and while it may look like the bookshelves grow less and less accessible as they reach the ceiling, it’s an illusion: the books on the higher levels are actually painted onto the surface of the wall.
You might be wondering how in the world they’re going to keep this bright white space clean. The answer, apparently, is ropes and movable scaffolding. Sounds like a fun job.