China’s New Luminous White Library: A Striking Visual Introduction

MVRDV, a Dutch archi­tec­ture and urban design firm, teamed up with Chi­nese archi­tects to cre­ate the Tian­jin Bin­hai Library, a mas­sive cul­tur­al cen­ter fea­tur­ing “a lumi­nous spher­i­cal audi­to­ri­um around which floor-to-ceil­ing book­cas­es cas­cade.” Locat­ed not far from Bei­jing, the library was built quick­ly by any stan­dards. It took only three years to move from “the first sketch to the [grand] open­ing” on Octo­ber 1. Elab­o­rat­ing on the library, which can house 1.2 mil­lion books, MVRDV notes:

The building’s mass extrudes upwards from the site and is ‘punc­tured’ by a spher­i­cal audi­to­ri­um in the cen­tre. Book­shelves are arrayed on either side of the sphere and act as every­thing from stairs to seat­ing, even con­tin­u­ing along the ceil­ing to cre­ate an illu­mi­nat­ed topog­ra­phy. These con­tours also con­tin­ue along the two full glass facades that con­nect the library to the park out­side and the pub­lic cor­ri­dor inside, serv­ing as lou­vres to pro­tect the inte­ri­or against exces­sive sun­light whilst also cre­at­ing a bright and even­ly lit inte­ri­or.

The video above gives you a visu­al intro­duc­tion to the build­ing. And, on the MRDV web­site, you can view a gallery of pho­tos that let you see the library’s shape­ly design.

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Comments (3)
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  • Terry Kuny says:

    There is no ques­tion that this is a beau­ti­ful design. But I won­der how func­tion­al it is as a library? Most of the books in these images seem inac­ces­si­ble to users. They exist as dec­o­ra­tions not as func­tion­al objects. It is almost a sim­u­lacra of a library. I won­der if one can­not read into the design some­thing of the pol­i­tics of Chi­na, a place where they want to put on a good face but where they are less inter­est­ed in true access to infor­ma­tion. The panop­tic “eye” in the cen­ter feels like it feeds into the sen­ti­ment of a benign author­i­tar­i­an­ism. So this seems like a per­fect archi­tec­tur­al expres­sion of Chi­na’s polit­i­cal real­i­ty. For most Chi­nese, infor­ma­tion access is tan­ta­liz­ing­ly out of reach, even here.

  • Laura Cook says:

    It appears from the archi­tec­t’s web­site that all the shelves above shoul­der lev­el are actu­al­ly backed with a sort of wall­pa­per that looks like books. So the books are not real­ly out of reach. It is quite an opti­cal illu­sion though.

  • Bill W. says:

    Only books approved by the Com­mu­nist regime are on those shelves. Free-thought and sub­ver­sive ideas (even in print) are not per­mit­ted by Big Broth­er!

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