This viral library isn't all it's cracked up to be. But it's still stunning and important.

China just built a new, futuristic library. And while it's not quite as amazing as it seems, it's still an architectural marvel.

Real books are making a comeback. Yes, everyone loves a good ebook — or even better, a good audio book — but nothing beats the look and feel of a real, honest-to-God book in your hands.

Need proof that print books aren't going away anytime soon? Just check out the new (and lavish) Tianjin Binhai Library, located outside of Beijing. It's an incredible sight to behold.


We're used to seeing impeccably architected libraries, but the appeal is often historic. After just a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library is bringing libraries into the 21st century and taking its place among the world's most beautiful.

Well. Sort of.

All photos by Ossip van Duivenbode/MVRDV. Used with permission.

The new library is 36,000 square feet, covering five stories floor to ceiling. But there's a catch.

The main room is touted as being large enough to hold a staggering 1.2 million books. Unfortunately, a miscommunication between the architectural firm and local authorities led the stunning main hall to be approved only for sitting, reading, and gathering ... but not actually storing books.

(The Chinese government has never been the biggest champion of free information.)

Sadly, those bookshelves that line the walls and stretch for thousands of feet, writhing and winding their way around the entire structure, are only for show.

If you look carefully, you'll notice the majority of the books in the library's photos are actually flat decals stuck to the wall. The few real books shown were placed only for promotion and will also be removed soon. The sections of the library that are approved for storage will only hold a couple hundred thousand books.

The giant orb in the center, one of the building's most distinguishing features, has earned the library its nickname, "The Eye of Binhai."

Inside the sphere is an auditorium.

At least that part is real!

Cleverly tucked away behind the stacks are reading rooms, work spaces, and offices.

You could seriously get lost in this library — and a good story or two — for days.

As of October 2017, this library is open to all.

These look like concept renderings, but they're real photos of the actual building as it stands today.

The library's going viral for its unreal architectural beauty, and though it turned out to be a little bit of a disappointment, it's still symbolic of something important.

Worldwide, more and more libraries are shutting down every year. It's sad to think that the places for people to pick up a real book are dwindling — but it's important to remember that libraries are so much more than just the tomes they hold.

They help revitalize communities, promote literacy in under-served neighborhoods, and often offer special programs that aid children, the elderly, disabled people, immigrants, and other groups.

Research is split on whether physical books have any advantage over other forms of reading. But as a community staple, libraries are irreplaceable.

It's awesome to see a new one pop up while so many are closing down, even if it ultimately is a little more surface than substance. People are still excited by the beauty of the building and going in droves to see it in person.

Hopefully the excitement over the Tianjin Binhai Library will inspire more cities around the world to step up their own library game.

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