China Built a Library Shaped Like a Giant Eye
The five-storey-high space is framed by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, which are staggered at different levels to form the shape of an eye socket, while a spherical mirrored auditorium at the centre forms the pupil.
The curving lines of the shelves provide areas where visitors can sit and read, and observe others doing the same. They also continue out across the glass facade, forming louvers that deflect the glare of the sun.
MVRDV first revealed its designs for the Tianjin Binhai Public Library in June 2016, when construction was already well underway. It is one of five buildings commissioned by the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute to form a new cultural centre for the Binhai district of the coastal city. The master plan for the area was set by German firm GMP – and MVRDV found it a struggle to fit the entire program into the allotted space. It was this that led the team to create the spherical auditorium at the centre.
The 33,700-square-metre building is the Dutch firm's fastest project completion to date – with a period of just three years between the first sketch and the opening ceremony.
Fast-tracking the process caused a few design headaches. The upper shelves directly above the atrium are currently unreachable, after planned access rooms were dropped – a decision MVRDV said was taken by the local team against their advice.
As a result, these shelves are covered in perforated aluminum plates that printed to look like books. They are cleaned using a system of moveable scaffolding and ropes.
The library also houses education facilities, which are located around the periphery of the interior and accessed via the main hall. Subterranean rooms hold a large archive and provide extra book storage.
Reading areas for children and the elderly are located on the ground floor, with reading rooms and lounge areas on the first and second floors. The upper floors contain meeting rooms, offices, computer rooms and two rooftop terraces.
Tianjin Binhai Public Library sits alongside building a new exhibition center by GMP, as well as other cultural buildings by Bernard Tschumi Architects, Bing Thom Architects and HH Design. All five are connected by a public corridor sheltered beneath a glass canopy.