MVRDV in collaboration with local architects TUPDI has completed the Tianjin Binhai Library, a 33,700m2 cultural centre featuring a luminous spherical auditorium around which floor-to-ceiling bookcases cascade. The undulating bookshelf is the building’s main spatial device, and is used both to frame the space and to create stairs, seating, the layered ceiling and even louvres on the façade. Tianjin Binhai Library was designed and built in a record-breaking time of only three years due to a tight schedule imposed by the local municipality. Next to many media rooms it offers space for 1,2 million books.
Architects: MVRDV, Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute
Area : 33700 m²
Year : 2017
Photographs :Ossip van DuivenbodeLighting
Design : Huayi Jianyuan lighting designStructural
Engineers : Sanjiang Steel Structure Desig
TEAMWiny : MaasJacob van Rijs
Nathalie de Vries
María López Calleja
Ángel Sánchez Navarro
Guang Ruey Tan
Jaime Dominguez Bálgoma
Antonio Luca Coco
The library was commissioned by Tianjin Binhai Municipality and is located in the cultural centre of Binhai district in Tianjin, a coastal metropolis outside Beijing, China. The library, located adjacent to a park, is one of a cluster of five cultural buildings designed by an international cadre of architects including Bernard Tschumi Architects, Bing Thom Architects, HH Design and MVRDV. All buildings are connected by a public corridor underneath a glass canopy designed by GMP. Within the GMP
masterplan MVRDV was given a strict volume within which all design was concentrated.
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 Tianjin Binhai Library interior is almost cave-like, a continuous bookshelf. 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. “We opened the building by creating a beautiful public space inside; a new urban living room is its centre. The bookshelves are great spaces to sit and at the same time allow for access to the upper floors. The angles and curves are meant to stimulate different uses of the space, such as reading, walking, meeting and discussing. Together they form the ‘eye’ of the building: to see and be seen.”
The five level building also contains extensive educational facilities, arrayed along the edges of the interior and accessible through the main atrium space. Public program is supported by subterranean service spaces, book storage, and a large archive. From the ground floor visitors can easily access reading areas for children and the elderly, the auditorium, the main entrance, terraced access to the floors above and connection to the cultural complex. The first and second floors consist primarily of reading rooms, books and lounge areas whilst the upper floors also include meeting rooms, offices, computer and audio rooms and two roof top patios.
The library is MVRDV’s most rapid fast track project to date. It took just three years from the first sketch to the opening. Due to the given completion date site excavation immediately followed the design phase. The tight construction schedule forced one essential part of the concept to be dropped: access to the upper bookshelves from rooms placed behind the atrium. This change was made locally and against MVRDV’s advice and rendered access to the upper shelves currently impossible. The full vision for the library may be realised in the future, but until then perforated aluminium plates printed to represent books on the upper shelves. Cleaning is done via ropes and movable scaffolding.
Since its opening on 1 October, 2017 the building has been a great hit in Chinese media and social media; reviews describe it as an ‘Ocean of Books’ (CCTV) and the ‘Most beautiful library of China’ (The Bund). Comments on social media call the building a ‘sea of knowledge’, ‘Super Sci-Fi’ or simply ‘The Eye.’ Most importantly, it is clear that the people of Tianjin have embraced the new space – and that it has become the urban living room it was intended to be.
An oval opening punched through the building is propped open by the Eye, a luminous sphere with an auditorium, which takes the main stage within the atrium and enlarges the perception of 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 wind their way through the scheme. MVRDV’s project is surrounded by four other cultural buildings designed by an international team of architects including Bernard Tschumi Architects and Bing Thom Architects.
Tianjin Library was built according to the Chinese Green Star energy efficiency label and has achieved two star status. MVRDV collaborated with Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI), structural engineers Sanjiang Steel Structure Design, TADI interior architects and Huayi Jianyuan lighting design. It is the second realised MVRDV project in Tianjin following TEDA Urban Fabric, completed in 2009.
The five-level library has a total space of 33,700 square meters (363,000 sq ft).It features floor-to-ceiling, terraced bookshelves able to hold 1.2 million books, and a large, luminous sphere in the center that serves as an auditorium with a capacity of 110 people. The library is nicknamed ‘The Evil Eye’ because the sphere, which appears like an iris, can be seen from the park outside through an eye-shaped opening.
In the first week after opening day, approximately 10,000 people a day came, causing queues outside.
The first and second floors contain mainly lounge areas and reading rooms. The floors above have computer rooms, meeting rooms, and offices. There are also two rooftop patios. Because of a decision to complete the library quickly and a conflict with what was officially approved, the main atrium cannot be used for book storage; the rooms providing access to the upper tiers of shelving were not built and book spines were printed onto the backs of the shelf space for the opening-day photographs.
The library was designed by the Rotterdam-based architectural firm MVRDV along with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI), a group of local architects. Because of a tight construction schedule by the local government, the project went from preliminary drawings to its doors opening within three years. It opened in October 2017.
The project is MVRDV’s second completed design in Tianjin. TEDA Urban Fabric, completed in 2009, provided 280,000m2 of mixed high and low-rise housing and retail.
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