Nobody likes to be watched while they’re trying to read a book, but we’re willing to make an exception if it means getting to visit this stunning new library in China, because the incredible structure has a giant spherical auditorium in the middle that looks just like a giant eye.
Located in the Binhai Cultural District In Tianjin, the five-story library, which was designed by Dutch design firm MVRDV in collaboration with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI) and has since been dubbed “The Eye of Binhai”, covers 34,000 square metres and can hold up to 1.2 million books.
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 louvres that deflect the glare of the sun.
Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV, described the finished interior as "almost cave-like, a continuous bookshelf".
"We opened the building by creating a beautiful public space inside; a new urban living room is its center," he said. "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."
The 33,700-square-meter 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 movable 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.