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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