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MVRDV builds a topography of books for the Chinese city of Tianjin


This autumn saw the opening to the public of Binhai Library, situated in this new district of the Chinese city of Tianjin. It forms part of the cultural campus of this developing area, shaped from different interconnected pieces designed by practices such as those of the architects Bernard Tschumi or Bing Thom. The library project was undertaken by the Dutch practice MVRDV, which drew it up in collaboration with TUPDI (Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute).

The project combines the radical simplicity of the general volume, a cuboid resulting from extruding the rectangular plot provided by the urban development plan, which is then deconstructed on the inside through forms and lines of an opposite nature. In this regard, the building is characterised by the contrast between external restraint and interior exuberance. Against the straights and curves and the regularity and forcefulness of the general volume, the central void counters with freedom and lack of definition. This great space, whose floor plan occupies approximately one third of the total surface, becomes the library’s main motif. This eye-catching room was conceived as the topographical image of a great cave in which the bookshelves constitute the contour lines. These white-coloured platforms, which are also transit corridors, shape the lower part of a grandstand opening on to the central space, occupied by a great sphere containing the auditorium, above which is a cylindrical light well. The MVRDV project planned for the highest shelves to also be given a use and made accessible from the upper floors, but the short timeframes for the work’s execution led this option to be discarded. The books in the upper zone have thus been replaced by the reproduction of their spines on metal plates. The contour lines that underline the building’s horizontality constitute the element that connects its external image with that of its interior, since the façades become slats that cover a curtain wall made from a metallic structure.

The rest of the building, connected to the campus complex on the basement floor, features more orthodox characteristics. Four communication and service cores are situated in each one of the corners of an imaginary interior rectangle running parallel to the perimeter. Inscribed in a simple structural grid, these groups qualify the layout of the remaining space over five floors, occupied by working and reading rooms, circulation and communication areas and the management offices.


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