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This Dutch-designed building will change the way you think about libraries

Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has designed arguably the most spectacular library in the whole world in the Binhai cultural district of China.

When Rotterdam-based MVRDV revealed their plans for the Tianjin Binhai Library last year, it appeared to be concept art for a sci-fi film. The building is a rectangular volume that encases a series of concentric, terraced layers. The whole design looks like a traditional Chinese rice plantation turned inside out.

A gigantic luminous sphere stands at the center of these floor-to-ceiling undulating shelves, making the whole building look like an eye to passersby.

The spectacular building is part of the Tianjin New Binhai masterplan which will feature high-rise buildings, various open public spaces and a high-speed train running between the district and Beijing.

The mammoth library covers more than 33 thousand square metres, is able to hold 1.2 million books and took just three years to build.

As jaw-dropping as it is, the design does have a few problems. The upper shelves directly above the atrium are currently unreachable, and as a result, those shelves are covered in perforated aluminum plates printed to look like books.

MVRDV says a local team decided to scrap the originally planned access rooms from the design against their advice. The firm said they hoped their “full vision for the library may be realised in the future”.

That little hiccup aside, the project is simply breathtaking. The structure also houses education facilities, subterranean archive rooms, offices, computer rooms and two rooftop terraces.

The reading areas for children and the elderly are located on the ground floor, while the access ramps to the upper floors are designed in such a way they also serve as spaces to sit, read and relax.

The Tianjin Binhai Library opened in October and social media users have already dubbed it “The Eye”.

MVRDV co-founder Winy Maas said about their design, “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.

“The Eye is the centre of the library, 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.”

Founded in 1993, Rotterdam based MVRDV is one of the darlings of the contemporary architecture work. Almost every project to come from their drawing table becomes the focus of admiration and discussion among the design community.

Among other amazing projects, MVRDV are responsible for the slick Jenga towers in Vienna, the mind-blowing Skygarden in Seoul and the famous Mirador housing estate in Madrid.

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros