Six of the best futuristic libraries

TIANJIN BINHAI LIBRARY, TIANJIN, CHINA

There's good reason why this luminous spherical library attracts up to 10,000 visitors a day, making it the city's biggest tourist attraction. Enter the doors of Tianjin Binhai Library and look up to spy the undulating white terraced bookshelves full of tomes from floor to ceiling. But it's not all real. Library construction was fast-tracked which meant access to the upper shelves is impossible; what you see way up there is perforated aluminium plates printed to represent books. It's still impressive. Architectural firm MVRDV together with Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI) completed the library as part of a larger master plan to provide a cultural district for the city.

See bhwhzx.cn

CALGARY CENTRAL LIBRARY, CALGARY

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Calgary Central Library
by Snohetta

Calgary Central Library by Snohetta.

Anyone who has visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will immediately recognise the architects of the new Calgary Central Library. Like SFMOMA, Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta's trademark curves and abundance of timber feature heavily in this project. Designed in collaboration with western Canadian firm, Dialog, the library's design was inspired by the Chinook cloud formations in Alberta, which are arch-shaped. Shelves, desks and chairs are made from western red cedar. Come for the design, and stay to look at Living History: Glimpses of Our Past digital storytelling kiosk on the history of Calgary. Keeping with the times, this library has a podcasting learning lab and borrowers return books by placing them on a "bookscalator".

See calgarylibrary.ca

GREEN SQUARE LIBRARY AND PLAZA, SYDNEY

Green Sqaure Library and Plaza.

Green Sqaure Library and Plaza. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Awarded the 2018 Architectural Review Library Award, Sydney's part-underground Green Square Library and Plaza has a circular sunken garden at its heart. Designed by Stewart Hollenstein in association with Stewart Architecture, the aim was to make this a community hub, a living room for local residents allowing some respite from apartment block living in this high-density area. The outdoor space includes an area for reading, and a "story tree" for children's story time. A series of circular skylights bring natural light to the subterranean library. Highlights inside include circular seats built into library shelves and a baby grand piano room with a view for the public to hire for rehearsals and recitals.

See cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

BIBLIOTECA SUR, LIMA

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On the outskirts of Lima, in a built-up residential area, is a giant monument to books, literally. Gonzalez Moix Arquitecture's Biblioteca Sur looks like books piled on a bookshelf. According to the architects, when two of the exposed concrete columns that look like books tilt, the order breaks, therefore, signalling the entrance to the library. Keeping with that analogy, the bookends are two wood veneer boxes on either side of the building. It makes for a grand design, and is especially picturesque against the park that neighbours it, and among the contrasting residential architecture that surrounds the library.

See munimolina.gob.pe

CITY OF PERTH LIBRARY, PERTH

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City of Perth Library. Photo: FRANCES ANDRIJICH

The first major civic building built since The Perth Concert Hall back in 1973, the Kerry Hill Architects-designed City of Perth Library is an architectural triumph. Part of the Cathedral Square Precinct, the circular building tapers southwards to make the most of Perth's abundant sunlight. Inside there are seven levels all accessible by a staircase that wraps around the exterior of the building. The children's library has a "tree of knowledge" as its centrepiece. There's also a 13-metre vertical garden. Look up at the ceiling to see Andrew Nicholls' mural Delight and Hurt Not, depicting the final act of The Tempest and illustrated with Western Australian flora and fauna.

See visitperth.com.au

QATAR NATIONAL LIBRARY, DOHA

Visitors to this giant open-plan space (as long as two 747s) will be greeted by a panorama of more than 1 million books displayed in white marble shelves tiered over multiple levels. Designed by Dutch architecture firm OMA, led by architect Rem Koolhaas, the aim was to create a single natural-light-filled room where books and people can coexist to create a unique internal topography. The Heritage Collection forms the core of the building, in a six-metre-deep underground space clad in travertine and designed to look like an excavated archaeological site. Here on view is a Ptolemaic map from 1478, titled Sexta Asiae Tabula, and ancient documents from the seventh century before Christ.

See qnl.qa/en

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