A magnificent eye – the public library designed by MVRDV


In collaboration with local architects TUPDI, MVRDV have competed the Tianjin Binhai Public Library in a record breaking time of only three years.


The work of global architecture and urban design firm MVRDV, the Tianjin Binhai Public Library gives the appearance of a giant eye, with floor to ceiling bookcases cascading around a luminous, spherical auditorium. Commissioned by Tianjin Binhai Municipality and located in the cultural centre of Binhai district in Tianjin, China, the Tianjin Binhai Public Library is one of five cultural buildings that have been designed by an international cadre of architects, including Bernard Tschumi Architects, Bing Thom Architects, and HH Design. The cluster of buildings all connect via a public corridor underneath a glass canopy, which was designed by GMP.


©Ossip van Duivenbode

Due to a tight schedule that was imposed by the municipality, the library was designed and built in a record breaking time of three years, becoming MVRDV’s most rapid, fast-track project to date. Extruding upwards from the site, the library is ‘punctured’ by a spherical auditorium at its centre, whilst bookshelves are arranged on either side of the sphere. These undulating bookshelves are used to frame the space; they have also been adapted to become the stairs and seating, and continue along the ceiling to create a unique interior.


©Ossip van Duivenbode

“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. “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

A five-level building, the library also holds extensive educational facilities which are accessible through the main atrium. Whilst the first and second floors consist mostly of reading rooms and lounge areas, the upper floors include meeting rooms, offices and two roof top patios. Since opening, the Tianjin Binhai Public Library has been a hit, with reviews describing it as the “most beautiful library” in China (The Bund).


©Ossip van Duivenbode

With such a unique public space, it is clear to see why the people of Tianjin have embraced their new library. The Tianjin Binhai Public Library is truly a wonder to behold, offering space for over 1 million books - and keeping a ‘watchful eye’ on all that happens around it.


©Ossip van Duivenbode

Feature image ©Ossip van Duivenbode





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