A new, futuristic library in northeastern China holds 1.2 million books and offers several areas for people to converge, read, and relax.
Although print is unquestionably in the decline in favor of digital content, the sun hasn’t set on the medium just yet. And if this futuristic library in China is any indication, we may soon see a resurgence.
Located in the Binhai Cultural District in Tianjin, China, the library holds over 1.2 million books and is five-stories tall. It features a large oval window giving the impression of a giant eye looking into the 34,000 square meter building, and features several communal areas on multiple floors. There is a basement as well that serves as an archive.
The library also features a spherical auditorium in the center, which mirrors the environment and offers a 360-degree panorama of the space inside. It’s a striking design, and one that any city looking to bring attention to their libraries might consider emulating.
Designed by Dutch firm MVRD in collaboration with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI), the building earned the nickname “The Eye of Binhai,” and serves the megacity and its 15 million residents. From initial design to opening the entire process took just three years.
“Terraced bookshelves which echo the form of the sphere create an interior, topographical, landscape whose contours reach out and wrap around the façade,” said a representative from MVRD. “In this way, the stepped bookshelves within are represented on the outside, with each level doubling up as a louvre.”
There are around 119,000 libraries of all kinds in the United States, and people tend to love their local versions. In 2015, one study stated that 76-percent of Americans felt that libraries serve the needs of their community. There is, however, a catch.
While people around the country still firmly support libraries in general, the number of people visiting libraries has steeply declined. In 2015, 44-percent of Americans visited a library or bookmobile, a sharp drop compared to 2012 when 53-percent of Americans visited one. There are several reasons for this decline – the most significant and obvious of these being the rise of easily accessible digital content – but there’s more to it than that.
To keep up with readily available information online, libraries continue to expand their non-print services. For example, nearly 90-percent of libraries offer ebook lending, but according to that same study on libraries in the U.S., only 38-percent of Americans were aware of that. So it’s not just a matter of libraries not offering what people want, it’s about people not coming into the library and seeing what’s new.
The library in China is in part meant to combat this by making itself into a cultural icon. It is part of a trend in the country to put an emphasis on cultural centers by merging functionality and aesthetics. if the library does prove a hit at bringing people in, it could help to encourage others to build new libraries with an eye on design, or possibly upgrade existing structures.
“The bookshelves are great spaces to sit and at the same time allow for access to the upper floors, the designers,” said a representative from MVRD. “The angles and curves are meant to stimulate different uses of the space, such as reading, walking, meeting and discussing.”