An eye-opening library

Eye Library 1

Home to 1.2 million books, the Tianjin Binhai Public Library in China is a new, 5-storey space featuring a glowing spherical atrium, which makes the space look like a giant eyeball from the outside.

Designed and realised by Dutch architectural firm MVRDV, the building is the firm’s fastest ever project completion, taking 3 years from the first sketch to opening. The shape of the futuristic interior space is achieved through floor-to-ceiling cascading shelves and acts as the eye socket for the auditorium pupil. The staggered shelves wrap around the glass façade and double as louvres, blocking out the sun’s glare.

The project’s tight construction schedule presented some challenges and as a result, a number of the shelves above the atrium are unreachable. Empty, inaccessible shelves are covered in perforated aluminium plates, designed to look like books.

Despite the appearance of so many books on the vast shelves, many of the library’s resources are actually stored in other rooms throughout the building. The ground floor features reading rooms for children and the elderly. More reading rooms and lounge rooms can be found on the second floor. The upper floors are home to meeting rooms, computer rooms and 2 rooftop terraces. Subterranean rooms contain a large archive and extra book storage.

Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV, describes the relationship between the library’s function and design: “The angles and curves are meant to stimulate different uses of the space, such as reading, walking, meeting and discussing.” He makes it clear that this is not just a space for reading: “A new urban living room is its centre.”

You can see more of this fascinating project here.

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