China opened the doors of its new, futuristic library earlier this month. The Tianjin Binhai Library, located just outside Beijing, features a luminous spherical atrium with bookshelves lining the walls, from floor to ceiling. The library is reported to house 1.2 million books.
Dutch architectural firm MVRDV collaborated with Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI) to create the five-story space that resembles a three-dimensional eye from the outside. From the first sketch to its opening, the project reportedly took three years to complete.
The massive bookshelves that contour the library’s walls, rolling across the ceiling like waves, were designed to hold more than books; visitors can walk among them.
“The angles and curves are meant to stimulate different uses of the space, such as reading, walking, meeting and discussing,” Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV said in a press release.
“Together they form the ‘eye’ of the building. Though some shelves contain stacks of books, others have printed aluminium plates that mimic books—a feature that has prompted criticism that the much-touted space is “more fiction than books.”
“Much of the library’s book collection is housed in other rooms. Nevertheless, the atrium is a spectacular feat of design and, as such, has already attracted an average of 15,000 visitors on weekends,” she added.
However, China is notorious for building astronomically expensive cultural facilities that open to great fanfare, only to end up standing empty without concerts or programming to fill them.