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Tianjin’s Beautiful (and Controversial) New Library

TIME | 1:46

Tianjin’s Beautiful (and Controversial) New Library

Peter Smisek

19 December 2017

Video Views

THE Tianjin Binhai Library quickly became a sensation when it opened in the autumn of 2017 with some commentators calling it "the most beautiful library in China". Now, this video from TIME allows you to take a look inside.

Above: Tianjin Binhai Library, which opened earlier this autumn, has been called "the most beautiful library in China" (image courtesy of Ossip van Duivenbode and MVRDV).

Nicknamed “The Eye” due to its unusual, curving atrium and the spherical auditorium in its midst, the 363,000 square foot (37,000 square metre) building is part of a 1.3 million square foot (120,000 square metre) convention centre that will contain a number of other cultural facilities serving the surrounding neighbourhood.

Above: Even though the library is integrated into a convention centre, it is aimed at the local community (image courtesy of Ossip van Duivenbode and MVRDV).

However, some visitors have pointed out that the sinuous shelves that line the edges of the atrium are largely empty and unreachable. Instead, they feature a printed book pattern, creating the illusion of full bookshelves.

Above: Many of the shelves in the atrium do not contain books, but are inlaid with a printed aluminium panel (image courtesy of Ossip van Duivenbode and MVRDV).

The fast track design and building process meant that these upper shelves, which could have been accessible from behind, were filled-in with perforated aluminium panels featuring book prints, against the wishes of the architect, Dutch practice MVRDV.

Above: The external louvres follow the spacing of the shelves inside (image courtesy of Ossip van Duivenbode and MVRDV).

Externally, the form of the building is deliberately simple. Pre-cast louvres wrap around the envelope following the spacing of the atrium shelves inside.

Above: Majority of the books and facilities are located beyond the spectacular atrium (image courtesy of Ossip van Duivenbode and MVRDV).

Spectacular and/or deceptive atrium aside, the Tianjin Binhai Library contains a staggering 1.2 million books, 14 reading rooms and three computer rooms.

The spherical central auditorium also acts as a screen, allowing the library to stage spectacular displays.

Above: The building has already become a popular attraction with the locals (image courtesy of Ossip van Duivenbode and MVRDV).

As a result, the building has attracted a lot of local interest with some 15,000 people visiting it every weekend. In comparison, The British Library in London welcomes around 4,500 visitors a day.

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