Hello everyone, how are you all? Hopefully managing to stay warm (fingers crossed). Well, it’s been another busy week in our house as we’re still packing our things up, which hasn’t been going great for me especially these past few days as I’ve messed my right wrist up even more (I’m unfortunately still suffering from Severe Tendonitis six months after being diagnosed) I haven’t been able to rest it properly with the odd bits and pieces that need packing, so I’ve been using it, even though I’m not really supposed to, and I think I’ve caused more damage to it 😢 I think I’m going to have to make an appointment to see my doctor within the next couple of weeks to get it re-checked. Let’s move on with this week’s post…
You might not know this but today is National Library Shelfie Day, which usually influences people to go to a library and take a selfie in front of a shelf of books, but instead of doing a post on that, it inspired me to share with you some of the most majestic libraries that are in the world, and believe me when I say that I found quite a lot of libraries that look amazing both inside and out, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to 25 (Which was not an easy thing to do), that might inspire you to go and visit and see for yourself how truly wonderful they are!
Often telling the stories of the past and providing guidance for the future, striking libraries all over the world hold together communities while providing insight into the spirit and history of a city. These libraries celebrate the artistry of their makers and the treasured collections through dynamic ceiling frescoes, brilliant architecture, and innovative design. Because of their critical importance, libraries were often built to be beautiful and built to last. Combined with the sometimes priceless treasures that they hold, their simultaneously enormous and intimate spaces possess a charm that no other type of building can command. Regardless of whether you’re an admirer of fine architecture or a self-described bibliophile, these 25 beautiful libraries are sure to make your literary bucket list.
1. Stuttgart City Library – Stuttgart, Germany
The gleaming white surfaces and crisp lines create a dreamy and relaxed atmosphere within the Stuttgart City Library. Taking design cues from the Pantheon in Rome, German-based Yi Architects took a minimalist approach toward designing the nine-story library with an open multi-floor reading room shaped like an upside-down pyramid. The only color within the cube building comes from the thousands of books that line the shelves.
2. The Admont Library – Admont, Austria
The library hall, built-in 1776 to designs by the architect Joseph Hueber, is 70 meters long, 14 meters wide and 13 meters high, and is the largest monastery library in the world. It contains 70,000 volumes of the monastery’s entire holdings of 200,000 volumes. The ceiling consists of seven cupolas, decorated with frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte showing the stages of human knowledge up to the high point of Divine Revelation. Light is provided by 48 windows and is reflected by the original color scheme of gold and white. The architecture and design express the ideals of the Enlightenment, against which the sculptures by Joseph Stammel of “The Four Last Things” make a striking contrast.
3. Bibliotheca Alexandrina – Alexandria, Egypt
Inaugurated in 2002, Bibliotheca Alexandrina aims to recapture the spirit and scholarship of the ancient world’s largest and most comprehensive library. The original Library of Alexandria housed the largest collection of books and manuscripts of its time and was regarded as the capital of knowledge before it was destroyed in a fire nearly 2,000 years ago. Designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, the new institution includes a library room with room for eight million books, four museums, four art galleries, a planetarium, and a manuscript-restoration laboratory. Etches of 120 different scripts cover the gray Aswan granite walls as a tribute to the evolution of human language.
4. Trinity College Library – Dublin, Ireland
As a result of its historic standing, Trinity College Library Dublin is a legal deposit library for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and contains about five million books, including 30,000 current serials and significant collections of manuscripts, maps, and printed music. The Library proper comprises several buildings in college. The original (Old) Library is Thomas Burgh’s masterpiece. A huge building, it originally towered over the university and city after its completion. Even today, surrounded by similarly scaled buildings, it is imposing and dominates the view of the university from Nassau Street.
5. George Peabody Library – Baltimore, United States
The beginnings of the George Peabody Library date back to the founding of the Peabody Institute in 1857 by George Peabody, who dedicated the institution to the citizens of Baltimore. Now a part of Johns Hopkins University, the “cathedral of books” contains nearly 300,000 volumes ranging from religion to British art to science. The library’s atrium soars 61 feet into the air with gold scalloped columns and cast-iron balconies and creates a mesmerizing space for teaching and research.
6. National Library of China – Beijing, China
Founded in 1909 by the government of the Qing dynasty, the National Library of China has amassed an astronomical collection of over 37 million items including the largest array of Chinese literature in the world. Students, researchers, and book lovers from across the country flood the three different structures of the library. The newest addition, the North Area, is divided into two levels: the lower holding the geometric reading room and reference library signifying the old, and the upper, housing the digital library representing the future and evolving technology.
7. State Library of Victoria – Melbourne, Australia.
The State Library Victoria is the main library of the Australian state of Victoria. Located in Melbourne, it was established in 1854 as the Melbourne Public Library, making it Australia’s oldest public library and one of the first free libraries in the world. The library’s vast collection includes over four million items, including books, photographs, manuscripts, maps, and newspapers. The landmark Domed Reading Room was opened in 1913, its octagonal space was designed to hold over a million books and up to 600 readers. It is 34.75 m in both diameter and height, and its oculus is nearly 5 m wide. The dome was the largest in the world on completion. In 2003, the area under the dome was officially renamed the La Trobe Reading Room, and now houses the Library’s Australiana collection, previously held in the 1965 La Trobe Building.
8. Klementinum National Library – Prague, Czech Republic
With its ornate ceiling frescoes by Jan Hiebl and rich gold-and-mahogany spiral pillars, it’s no wonder why the Klementinum is touted as “the Baroque pearl of Prague.” The library first opened in 1722 as a part of a Jesuit university but now serves as the National Library of the Czech Republic, housing over 20,00 volumes of foreign theological literature. A portrait of Emperor Joseph II sits at the head of the hall to commemorate his work in preserving books from abolished monastic libraries, many of which remain in the hall today.
9. Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This Neo-Maueline stunner holds the biggest and most valuable collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal with nearly 400,000 rare manuscripts, singular works, and unique proofs decorating the shelves. A trio of Portuguese immigrants originally founded the cabinet in 1822 to bring literary traditions and masterpieces to the newly independent Brazil. In 1887, the doors of the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading opened to the public revealing three stories of works to be discovered and the radiant Altar of the Homeland by goldsmith António Maria Ribeiro.
10. Salt Lake City Public Library — Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Constructed in 2003, the main location within Utah’s Salt Lake City Public Library system is a unique building centered on a beautiful five-story curved glass wall and a 20,000-square-foot skylight, reinforcing the architect’s commitment to incorporating natural lighting into the design scheme. The rooftop features spectacular views of Salt Lake City and is adorned with landscaped gardens and grounds. With seven additional locations, the public library holds more than 500,000 books, e-books, and downloadable titles, as well as a large collection of zines and periodical publications.
11. Wiblingen Monastery Library – Ulm, Germany
While the Wiblingen Monastery was founded in 1093, the whimsical Rococo library wasn’t completed until 1744 under the design direction of Christian Wiedemann. The hand-carved wooden columns and statues, painted to resemble marble, depict the Christian virtues and disciplines with the books placed to correspond with the statues. The 15,000-item collection includes a large collection of both Pagan and Christian-related imagery.
12. Biblioteca Vasconcelos – Mexico City, Mexico
Open, scaffold-like shelving and see-through walls turn a day at the library into an artistic experience in the Biblioteca Vasconcelos. The 820-foot building, designed by Alberto Kalach, lies within a verdant botanical garden that was once a barren area of Mexico City. Named after Mexican writer José Vasconcelos, the institution also acts as a gallery for artists to display their work like Gabriel Orozco’s Ballena, a sculpture made from a whale skeleton.
13. National Library — Minsk, Belarus
One of the best libraries in the world, and certainly one of the most distinctive and architectural feat in its own right, the National Library of Belarus is shaped like a Rhombicuboctahedron. The unique 22-story building was opened in 2006, although the library has been in operation since 1922. The library is a tourist attraction and popular destination in Minsk, featuring a public observation deck and hosting public concerts on its lawn. As the official copyright library of Belarus, the National Library holds more than 8 million items and houses the third largest collection of Russian works in the world.
14. Library of Parliament – Ottawa, Canada
Since its creation, the Library of Parliament serves as the main research center for the government of Canada. Architects Chilion Jones and Thomas Fuller pulled design inspiration for the main reading room’s vaulted ceiling and delicately carved white pine paneling from the British Museum Reading Room. The statue of Queen Victoria by Marshall Wood stands over the 600,000 item collection, which is tended to by 300 dedicated curators.
15. The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library, New York, USA
Two marble lions stand guard at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, watching visitors as they come and go from the research library on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The idea for the Beaux-Arts landmark first came about in 1895, when the consolidation of the Astor and Lenox Libraries propelled the founders of the New York Public Library to build an enormous institution to compete with Paris and London.
16. Central Library – Vancouver, Canada
This famous library is actually modeled after the Roman Colosseum. It has nine floors and takes up an entire city block, so it’s not only a library with nine and a half million items (including books, e-books, CDs, DVDs, newspapers, and magazines), but is also a complex with shops, cafés, and offices. There’s even a rooftop garden that’s open to the public.
17. Bodleian Library – Oxford, UK
Oxford University’s Bodleian Library is one of the most celebrated in Europe with the Magna Carta and Shakespeare’s First Folio amongst the institution’s 13 million printed items. One of the most recognizable buildings apart of the library group, the masterful Radcliffe Camera, designed by James Gibbs, is the earliest example of a circular library in England. The neoclassical structure has gained popularity in mainstream culture after being featured in films such as Young Sherlock Holmes and The Golden Compass.
18. Calgary Central Library – Calgary, Canada
The Calgary Central Library’s design was unveiled to the public in September 2014 by architects Snøhetta and DIALOG. The entrance is framed by wood-clad arches inspired by the shape of arched clouds. Landscaping around the library and adjoining plaza consist of terracing inspired by the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. The 22,000-square-metre (240,000 sq ft) interior is centered around a four-story central atrium topped by a skylight. The lower floors contain the library’s meeting spaces and activity centers, while the upper floors feature book stacks with space for 450,000 titles and a reading room. At street level, a floor below the main lobby, is a 340-seat theatre, conference rooms, and small café
19. Cottbus Technical University Library – Cottbus, Germany
The nearly 20-foot-diameter colorful spiral staircase twirling through the university library allows for unique vantage points throughout the library. The amoeba-like plan from Herzog and de Meuron spreads into an artificial hill to create an “accidental shape” that promotes unique flow and movement. The glazed exterior stands out from the nearby buildings and has unique vantage points from all sides. This feeling continues inside where rooms differ in size and orientation and colors play throughout to keep visitors guessing.
20. Spijkenisse Public Library Foundation – Spijkenisse, Netherlands
Known as Book Mountain, the library in the town’s market square opened in 2012 by stacking into a pyramid shape, wrapping bookshelves, the shelving was made from recycled flowerpots—up throughout the space. Designed by MVRDV, a café sits at the top and the transparent glass allows the mountain of books to remain visible from the outside.
21. Beitou Public Library –Taipei, Taiwan
Reading just got a lot greener with the ecological design of the Beitou Public Library. The slanted roof of the two-story wooden facility captures rainwater which is stored to use within the structure’s lavatory; the large French-style ushers in natural light, reducing electricity consumption. Complete with balconies overlooking native flora, the Beitou Public Library feels as though you’ve stepped into a literary treehouse.
22. The Tianjin Binhai Library – Tianjin, China
The continuous curved seating and floor-to-ceiling stocked shelves make visiting the Tianjin Binhai Library feel as though you are traveling through a sea of books. Designed by the Dutch firm MVRDV, the five-story space has the capacity to fit over a million books, but only stores 200,000 volumes. In fact, the majority of books within the main room are only printed images of book spines dispersed amongst the collection to create the illusion of fully stock shelves. The white spherical auditorium at the center of the library, nicknamed “The Eye of Binhai,” can be seen from across the neighboring park through an eye-shaped opening of windows.
23. The Abbey Library of Saint Gall – St. Gallen, Switzerland
Early architectural plans that depict a library attached to the main church of the Abbey of Saint Gall suggest the collection dates back to around 820 CE. As the abbey’s catalog of science writings and manuscripts grew, the collection moved to its lavishly decorated Baroque-style hall by Peter Thumb in the mid-18th century. Nearly 160,00 volumes make up the intricately carved wood shelves, all of which are available for public use.
24. El Ateneo Grand Splendid – Buenos Aires, Argentina
If you’re looking to explore Argentine culture, arts, and literature, you’ll love the El Ateneo Grand Splendid. The library, which used to be a theater, still has red stage curtains and its original alfresco ceiling. However, the former mezzanines and orchestra sections have given way to thousands of books. You can even sit down for a cup of coffee on the stage where once dancers performed, which is now lined with coffee tables.
25. Bibliothèque nationale de France – Paris, France
Founded by Charles V. in 1368, the first collection of France’s national library was housed within a special room in the Louvre. Today, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France spans over four locations across Paris and houses over 10 million titles ranging from arts to law to philosophy. The institution displays countless exhibits and works of art including King Louis XIV’s colossal globes, which formerly lived at Versailles until the French Revolution.
Thank you for coming to my blog and reading today’s post, If you decide to visit any of these libraries, I hope you find them as magnificent as I did! Enjoy the rest of your week and I will see you next time.