These 12 Photos Provide a Peek into China’s Futuristic—and Controversial—New 1.2 Million-Book Library

November 17, 2017, 3:13 PM UTC
Tianjin Binhai New Area Library
TIANJIN, CHINA - OCTOBER 29: The Tianjin Binhai New Area Library, called 'the eye of Binhai', is located at the cultural center of Binhai New Area on October 29, 2017 in Tianjin, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
VCG via Getty Images

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. What looks to be a book lover’s ultimate fantasy could ultimately house 1.2 millions tomes.

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 took three years to complete, according to MVRDV.

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 aluminum 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.