Lonely Planet Writer

This futuristic library with more than a million books opens in China

Book-lovers from around the world can prepare to be awed by a massive, futuristic library in China with space to hold more than one million books.

Inside the incredible Tianjin Library in China designed by MVRDV. Image by (c) Ossip van Duivenbode

The Tianjin Binhai Library is a new 33,700-square-metre cultural centre designed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV in collaboration with local architects TUPDI. The amazing spherical auditorium – which resembles an eye – is surrounded by bookcases that reach from floor to ceiling. The undulating shelves not only look amazing, but serve important functions by creating stairs, seating and a layered ceiling. They also create the space to hold 1.2 million books.

Books line the shelves of the incredible library.
Inside the incredible Tianjin Library in China designed by MVRDV. Image by (c) Ossip van Duivenbode

The library in located in the Binhai district in Tianjin, a coastal city that borders the Beijing municipality. It is located next to a park and is part of a grouping of five cultural buildings that are connected by a public corridor underneath a glass canopy.

The library resembles an eye.
Inside the incredible Tianjin Library in China designed by MVRDV. Image by (c) Ossip van Duivenbode

“We opened the building by creating a beautiful public space inside; a new urban living room is its centre. 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,” said Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV in a statement.

Books line the unique shelves of the library.
Inside the incredible Tianjin Library in China designed by MVRDV. Image by (c) Ossip van Duivenbode

The first two levels of the five-level building consist mainly of reading rooms, books and lounge areas, while upper floors contain meeting rooms, officers, computer and audio rooms and two rooftop patios. The building was completed in three years – but MVRDV notes that the quick pace of construction led to one interesting feature. The tight schedule meant that one aspect of the concept was dropped – access to the upper bookshelves from rooms placed behind the atrium. The firm is clear that this decision was made against their advice and has left access to the upper bookshelves impossible to reach. Because of that, instead of housing books, the upper shelves have only aluminium plates printed to represent books.

Inside the incredible Tianjin Library in China designed by MVRDV. Image by (c) Ossip van Duivenbode

But whether the shelves are filled with books or just imitations, it’s sure to still leave fans of literature wandering along the shelves in amazement.