Articulated around a mirrored spherical auditorium, this library designed by Dutch firm MVRDV in the Chinese city of Tianjin is nearing completion. The 34,200 m2 building forms part of the new Binhai Cultural Centre, the masterplan of which was designed by German architects GMP, and joins four other buildings through a series of ‘cultural corridors’. The library bases itself around a mirrored spherical auditorium which, coupled with the main atrium, forms an eye that gives panoramas of the interior space and reflects the beautiful park in front of the building. Terraced bookshelves echo the sphere throughout the atrium, leading users up into the heart of the library, before continuing around the building as louvres. The cultural project was designed for Tianjin Binhai District and is estimated to be open to the public in mid-2017.


MVRDV have, with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI), designed Tianjin Binhai Library as part of a larger plan to provide a cultural district for the city. The building acts not only as an education centre but as a connector from the park into the cultural district. An oval opening, punctured through the building is propped open by the Eye, a mirrored sphere with an auditorium, which takes the main stage within the atrium and enlarges the perceived space within. Terraced bookshelves which echo the form of the sphere create an interior, topographical, landscape whose contours reach out and wrap around the façade. In this way, the stepped bookshelves within are represented on the outside, with each level doubling up as a louvre.


The futuristic library sits within a sheltered gallery, topped with cathedral-like vaulted arches, which winds its way throughout the scheme. MVRDV’s project is surrounded by four other cultural buildings designed by an international team of architects including Bernard Tschumi Architects, Bing Thom Architects, HH Design and GMP.

The five levels of the building contain an extensive programme of educational facilities. The subterranean level has in it service spaces, book storage and a large archive, whilst above this on the ground floor are easy access reading areas for children and the elderly, the main entrance and access to the cultural complex, the auditorium and terraced access to the floors above. The first and second floors consist primarily of reading rooms, books and lounge areas whilst the top two floors also include meeting rooms, offices, computer rooms and audio rooms.


“The Eye is the centre of the library. It ‘hollows out’ the building and creates, out of bookshelves, an environment to sit, to read, to hang out, to climb and to access, to create an organic social space,” explains MVRDV co-founder Winy Maas. “In its heart is the auditorium which mirrors the environment, giving a 360 degree panorama of the space inside; a truly reflective and pensive environment.”


all images © MVRDV