Read carefully between the lines

A futuristic Chinese library has wowed book lovers around the world with its white, undulating shelves from floor to ceiling, but if you read between the lines, you will find something missing.

Those rows upon rows of book spines are mostly images printed on the aluminium plates that make up the backs of the shelves.

Pictures of the sleek Tianjin Binhai Library have gone viral on Chinese social media and abroad since its opening last month, with headlines trumpeting it as the "world's best library" and a "book lover's dream".

Designed by Dutch architectural firm MVRDV, the building looks like an eye when viewed from the still unfinished park outside, with a spherical auditorium as the iris at its centre.

The library contains 200,000 books and has grand ambitions to grow its collection to 1.2 million.

But readers expecting to pluck tomes from most of the terraced shelves are in for a surprise. Most books are in other rooms with more classic library bookshelves.

Mr Jiang Xue, a 21-year-old medical student who was perusing one of the more robustly stocked sections - propaganda about the ruling Communist Party's recent congress - said: "There is quite a big difference between the photos and reality."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2017, with the headline 'Read carefully between the lines'. Subscribe