MVRDV builds the library of the digital future

TIANJIN, China – MVRDV is no stranger to mesmerizing architecture that put a smile on your face. Unconventional and dazzling, the Tianjin Binhai Public Library looks like it comes straight out of a sci-fi movie and takes a step into the unknown future of literary spaces in a digital age.

The cultural centre is a 33,700-sq-m volume with a spherical auditorium, carving out a spectacular atrium surrounded by over a million books. ‘Not being able to touch the building’s volume we “rolled” the ball-shaped auditorium demanded by the brief into the building and the building simply made space for it, as a “hug” between media and knowledge,’ says Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV and Frame Awards 2018 jury member.

The cascading floor-to-ceiling bookcase takes the spotlight in the project. This undulating bookshelf is its main spatial device – not only framing the atrium, but also creating stairs, seating and extending out to make the louvres of the façade. The contouring layers span the two fully-glazed facades as a protective device from excessive sunlight for the books inside. Just when you think the shelves do enough work, you notice it rising to the ceiling to create an illuminated topography.

Accessed through the main atrium space, the five-storey building houses extensive educational facilities. The public programme is supported by subterranean service spaces, book storage, and a large archive.

The library is one gem among five cultural buildings in a new development in Tianjin – a starchitecture showcase by Bernard Tschumi Architects, Bing Thom Architects, and HH Design alongside MVRDV.

In a time where the digital media is king and print seems to be heading towards becoming museum exhibition pieces, at least it could be housed within the beautiful temple of knowledge that is the Tianjin Binhai Public Library. ‘Tianjin certainly is a step in the direction of making libraries a more all-in-one space for learning, consuming, sharing, creating, and experiencing, whilst at the same time, still retaining their core as spaces for knowledge exchange. Gone are the days of musty, carpeted rooms with outdated technology. Libraries can also be places of inspiration,’ say the architects of MVRDV.

Location Binhai, Tianjin, China

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