A unique & inspiring library in China!

Gone are the days of musty, carpeted room with outdated technology. Libraries provide a public means of accessing knowledge and can also be places of inspiration. Tianjin Binhai Library is one such library in China, which is garnering lot of attention.


There were 2,925 public libraries in China in 2011. Of the university or college libraries, the collections of Peking University and Zhejiang University libraries lead the nation. China now has the world’s highest Internet population, 338 million, and has been grappling with the challenge of bringing its libraries up to higher standards. In such a backdrop, Tianjin Binhai Library promotes reading and inspiration in China.

Tianjin Binhai Library

MVRDV and Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI) have recently completed Tianjin Binhai Library as part of a larger masterplan to provide a cultural district for the city. The 33,700m2 cultural centre featuring a luminous spherical auditorium and floor-to-ceiling cascading bookcases not only as an education centre, but also social space and connector from the park into the cultural district.

The library unique structure…

An oval opening punctured through the building is propped open by the Eye, a luminous sphere with an auditorium, which takes the main stage within the atrium and enlarges the perceived space within. Terraced bookshelves, which echo the form of the sphere, create an interior, topographical, landscape whose contours reach out and wrap around the façade. In this way, the stepped bookshelves within are represented on the outside, with each level doubling up as a louvre.

The five-level building also contains extensive educational facilities, arrayed along the edges of the interior and accessible through the main atrium space. The public program is supported by subterranean service spaces, book storage, and a large archive. From the ground floor, visitors can easily access reading areas for children and the elderly, the auditorium, the main entrance, terraced access to the floors above and connected to the cultural complex. The first and second floors consist primarily of reading rooms, books and lounge areas whilst the upper floors also include meeting rooms, offices, computer and audio rooms and two rooftop patios.

Behind unique design…

As a practice, MVRDV are always interested in exploring and expanding on existing typologies especially in cultural project. They like to think of how these spaces can be adapted to future users. For this project the main challenge was to create a design that was ambitious and rethink the typology for a library so it is no longer a dull and depressing environment. It becomes a social space that also promotes reading and inspiration.

It is not MVRDV’s first library project. They have also developed Book Mountain, which has a mountain-like (Pyramid) design. Tianjin is a library intended to be a step in the direction for making libraries a more all-in-one space.

How is it maintained?

There is a cleaning system in place for the exterior and specialist staff to maintain the books, archive and collection.

Capacity of the library…

The library can hold up to 1.35million books. These books are mainly general knowledge books with some additional book storage for the archive.

The Atrium was designed as a social space and not for official readers as reading rooms are located behind the main atrium as well as a variety of other spaces including service spaces, meeting rooms, lounges, offices and an archive. The eye is a recognizable feature of the design visible from inside and outside but also a fully functioning atrium with a capacity of 110.

Since it’s opening on 1st October 2017, the building has been a great hit in Chinese media and social media. Reviews describe it as an ‘Ocean of Books’ (CCTV) and the ‘Most beautiful library of China’ (The Bund). Comments on social media call the building a ‘sea of knowledge’, ‘Super Sci-Fi’ or simply as, ‘The Eye’. And as you mentioned also like a “Pearl.’

(Source: Tianjin Binhai Library (MVRDV design team)

All photos (c) Ossip van Duivenbode

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