Hello everyone, hope you’re all doing well. I’m not going to lie it has been a very tiring week, we have been up early every single day this past week including Sunday which most people use as a day to stay in bed later and sleep for a few extra hours before having to get back into their weekly routine of getting up early on Monday morning for school or work, etc… but we had a good reason to get up early as we went back to my hometown to surprise my Nan for her birthday, which she was so happy about when she saw us stood on her doorstep, and even more happy and grateful when she opened her presents that we got her! We didn’t stay long as she already had dinner plans arranged, but I think it made her day a little more special that she got to see us (we don’t get to visit her very much), so it was worth getting up early to travel to see her and put a smile on her face.
Anyway on with today’s post… with having to be up early every day to drive to different places, its given me time to be able to do some reading, something which I love to do when I have any spare time, which means going to a library is one of my favourite things to do as I get to either sit and read whilst I’m there and just escape into the world of books or check them out to be able to read them whilst I’m travelling, and I had a thought not so long ago; “what are some of the best unique libraries in the world?”, and well that gave me the idea of doing this list for a blog post, so without further do let’s get started!
Libraries have been around for centuries and even though some of the oldest ones are absolutely stunning, today we are focusing on modern ones, where technology and modern architecture takes over. And what better way to celebrate it than to share some of the world’s most unique and modern libraries? One thing remains common, the fact that libraries are designed to inspire everyone who steps in, whether it’s a 17th-century renaissance or an ultra-modern 21st-century library. Think again if you think libraries are only for book lovers, as architecture and technology are present in each of these.
Tianjin Binhai Library – Tianjin, China
The Tianjin Binhai Library is a new 33,700-square-metre cultural centre designed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV in collaboration with local architects TUPDI. The amazing spherical auditorium – which resembles an eye – is surrounded by bookcases that reach from floor to ceiling. The undulating shelves not only look amazing, but serve important functions by creating stairs, seating and a layered ceiling. They also create the space to hold 1.2 million books. It’s no surprise that this library went viral when its doors opened back in 2017. With an impressive atrium featuring shelves from the floor to the ceiling, this library quickly became a tourist attraction. It’s a standing proof that design is crucial when it comes to library attendance, especially because the top shelves, that are actually out of reach are actually aluminum plates printed with book images.
Seattle Public Library Central Library – Seattle, USA
The Seattle Central Library is the flagship library of the Seattle Public Library system. The 11-story glass and steel building in downtown Seattle, Washington was opened to the public on May 23, 2004. The 362,987 square feet public library has the capacity to hold about one and a half million books and other materials. Although the library is an unusual shape from the outside, the architects’ philosophy was to let the building’s required functions dictate what it should look like, rather than imposing a structure and making the functions conform to that. For example, a major section of the building is the “Books Spiral,”The collection spirals up through four stories on a continuous series of shelves. This allows patrons to peruse the entire collection without using stairs or traveling to a different part of the building. Over two million people visited the library during its first year. It is the third Seattle Central Library building to be located on the same site at 1000 Fourth Avenue, the block bounded by Fourth and Fifth Avenues and Madison and Spring Streets. The library has a unique, striking appearance, consisting of several discrete “floating platforms” seemingly wrapped in a large steel net around glass skin. Architectural tours of the building began in June 2004.
Qatar National Library– Doha, Qatar
Qatar National Library acts as a steward of Qatar’s national heritage by collecting, preserving and making available the country’s recorded history. In its role as a research library with a preeminent heritage library, the Library fosters and promotes greater global insight into the history and culture of the Gulf region. As a public library, they provide equal access for all of Qatar’s residents to an environment that supports creativity, independent decision-making, and cultural development. Through all their functions, they provide leadership to the country’s library and cultural heritage sector. The Library also supports Qatar’s transition from a reliance on natural resources to become a diversified and sustainable economy by providing support to students, researchers, and the public to promote lifelong learning and empower individuals and communities for a better future. In addition to full-text online resources, the Library currently has more than one million books in its collections, along with more than 500,000 ebooks, periodicals and newspapers, and special collections. Their qualified librarians are experts in teaching, research skills, literacy, programs and knowledge management. Combining all these skills together with a strong service ethic, they offer many events, programs, and activities for the local community to do, learn and discover.
Sandro Penna Municipal Library – Perugia, Italy
The library was opened in 2004 and is named after the Peruginian poet Sandro Penna. It was built from a project of the architect Italo Rota who conceived it as a big pink disk, entirely glazed and illuminated by night. It has become a point of reference for those who want to read or study, due to its architectural shape and position in the middle of the neighbourhood of San Sisto. The charming design is supported by the book patrimony paying attention to the necessities of different generations and rich of narrative books. Sandro Penna Library is particurarly focused on children and teenagers, both in the selection of books and in the construction of different sections and dedicated areas. This pink bubble-gum coloured three-storey disk is not an alien spaceship, but the Sandro Penna municipal library, named after a Perugian poet. Its unique architecture which includes the usage of rose-tinted glass walls allows sunlight to seep in during the day and creates a beautiful, warm glow at night. This library attracts not just bookworms but also tourists from across the planet. It houses almost 19,800 volumes and a variety of literature.
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library – New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Designed by Gordon Bunshaft of the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the Beinecke Library opened in October 1963. It was the gift of three Yale alumni—Edwin J. Beinecke, 1907; Frederick W. Beinecke, 1909S; Walter Beinecke, 1910—and their families, who intended it as “a symbol of the loyalty and devotion of three brothers” and as “a source of learning and…an inspiration to all who enter.” Bunshaft conceived of a cathedral-like exhibition hall that continues to inspire today. More than 200,000 visitors come through the main revolving doors each year from across New Haven, around the nation, and beyond to see the building and its permanent and special exhibitions and to attend concerts, readings, and conferences. The building’s design includes a six-story glass-enclosed tower of book stacks, holding approximately 180,000 volumes, and large “windows” made of translucent Vermont marble panels, an inch and a quarter thick, in a Vierendeel truss of steel clad in granite. The marble panels protect the collections from damaging direct sunlight while absorbing and diffusing the exterior light in warm hues on the interior. The Beinecke Library holds more than one million books, many millions of manuscript pages, and tens of thousands of papyri, photographs, maps, posters, paintings, and art objects, as well as extensive audiovisual material and born-digital content. Collections range from ancient fragments on papyrus through works by living authors.
La Bibliotheque Louis Nucera – Nice, France
Located right beside the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, the Louis Nucéra library is a thoroughfare and a place of culture known to everyone in Nice. At a huge 10,000m², it is made up of a study area, a video library, a corner dedicated to exhibitions and an auditorium. On its shelves it has more than 200,000 documents to consult. Among them, books as well as videos, music and many archival documents. Throughout the year, the library is enlivened by workshops, conferences and other events organised there. Its administrative department premises which overlook it are equally famous. Indeed, they are housed in the “Tête Carrée” [Square Head] 30 metres in height designed by the artist Sacha Sosno. A monumental and unusual work which is worth a look. At night it lights up in full view of passers-by who love to photograph it from every angle. The library also participates in cultural events. Two of the 20 computer stations available are equipped with software that allows blind and visually impaired people to have access to the catalogue and the internet. A “reading machine” and a teleaglider make it possible to read documents on site.
Baku Museum of Miniature Books – Baku, Azerbaijan
The Baku Museum of Miniature Books is the only museum of miniature books in the world, settled in the old part of Baku, called Inner City. The museum started its operation on April 2, 2002. In 2015 the Museum of Miniature Books was presented the Certificate of the Guinness Book of Records as the largest private museum of miniature books. Exhibits in the museum were collected by Zarifa Salahova (the sister of Tahir Salahov) over the period of 30 years. Her collection consists of more than 6500 books from 64 different countries. The museum was opened to public viewing with the hope of promoting childhood literacy. The museum has several thousands of the fairy-sized books: macro-mini, miniature, micro-mini and ultra-mini micro. The world’s three smallest books with size of 2mm x 2mm each that can only be read with the use of a magnifying glass which were published by “Toppan Publishing House” are also exhibited in the Baku Museum of Miniature Books: “The language of flowers”, “Birthstone”, and “The signs of the Zodiac”. These books were published in 1978 in Tokyo. “The most miraculous thing” is the only book in the museum includes into the category containing miniature book with size of 6mm x 9mm. The book is published in Moscow in 1985. The book contains the Máxim Gorki’s and Pushkin’s works. It has been translated into 4 languages: Italian, German, French and English.
Starfield Library in Seoul – South Korea
Located in the center of COEX Mall, Starfield Library is an open public space where anyone can freely come to sit down, take a break, and immerse themselves in books along with other bibliophiles. A wide selection of books in various genres such as humanities, economics, hobbies, etc. are readily available. Whole sections of the library are dedicated to foreign books and famous authors. There’s not even a single topic of a book which is not available there. And that’s what makes it different from the rest of the libraries, along with the fact that it’s underground. Not just that but Starfield Coex Library also contains newspapers, maps, ( of its own mall and city as well as South Korea, overall) and the whole world, any place and any location. But this library also comprises various periodicals, manuscripts, written films and documents, databases and other formats or whatever it is you’re looking for, is almost all there. Another great thing is iPads are also present in the library to read e-books. Plus, close to 600 magazines, domestic and foreign, are available for browsing. All these qualities set Starfield Library apart from other ordinary libraries. In addition, a plethora of events take place here such as meeting with authors, book talks, poetry reading, lectures, book concerts, and more.
Picture Book Library – Iwaki City, Japan
The Museum of Picture Books, also known as the Picture Book Library, is located in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture in Japan. In 2005, Japanese architect Tadao Ando designed this privately owned special library mainly to serve three preschools. However, visitors flock to the library on its open-access days to see Ando’s design and to enjoy the collection of international children’s books. The building occupies 492.07 m² of space, with the total floorspace amounting to 634.05 m² in Ando’s building. Decorations are minimal, largely consisting of the books themselves in a cover-out display that dominates the space. The collection is international in scope and contains only picture books aimed at young children. There are 1300 books in the collection, which was privately compiled before being shared in the library. Authors featured in the collection include Maurice Sendak, Marie Hall Ets, Edward Gorey, and Kate Greenaway.
Oodi Central Library – Helsinki Finland
The Helsinki Central Library Oodi, designed by ALA Architects, is topped with large open-plan reading room under an undulating roof punctured by circular skylights. The 17,250-square-metre building contains a relatively small number of books – around 100,000 – with the majority of space dedicated to public amenities including; a cinema, recording studios, a maker space, and areas for hosting exhibitions and events. The building instead uses online services and book-sorting robots to offer users access to nearly 3.4 million books, which can be delivered to the building. Its architectural concept is based on a notion of dividing library functions into three different types of floors, each with their dedicated atmospheres. The first floor is a fast-paced transformable space. It holds a spacious lobby for organising various events, the library’s information desk, book returns as well as a café. The cinema and the multi-purpose hall located on this floor can be flexibly used for either extending the lobby or organising separate events. On the second floor, city residents can get creative in the top-class workshop and studio facilities. At the Urban Workshop on the second floor, you can create new things and personalise old ones. The second floor also hosts the state-of-the-art studios for playing music, recording, filming and editing. There are also rooms dedicated for studying and working. Book Heaven on the third floor of Oodi fuses the traditional library mood and modern library services. The third floor invites you to read, learn and relax.
The Geisel Library – San Diego, USA
The Geisel Library, originally simply named the Central Library, was renamed in 1995. It was designed by William Pereira and is an eight story, concrete structure sited at the head of a canyon near the center of the campus of the University of California San Diego. The building is named in honor of Audrey and Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) for the generous contributions they have made to the library and their devotion to improving literacy. The lower two stories form a pedestal for the six story, stepped tower that has become a visual symbol for the structure. The library itself houses over 7 million volumes to support the educational and research objectives of the university. It also contains the Mandeville Special Collections and Archives, which houses the Dr. Seuss Collection, which contains original drawings, sketches, proofs, notebooks, manuscript drafts, books, audio and videotapes, photographs, and memorabilia. The approximately 8,500 items in the collection document the full range of Dr. Seuss’s creative achievements, beginning in 1919 with his high school activities and ending with his death in 1991.
José Vasconcelos Library – Mexico City, Mexico
The Vasconcelos Library, (Biblioteca Vasconcelos), for its unique design and inviting interior has almost immediately became one of the city’s most emblematic and photographed public buildings. It was dedicated to José Vasconcelos, the philosopher and former presidential candidate and former president of the National Library of Mexico. Few other libraries in the city have grown into cultural destinations on quite this scale. With a collection of over 600,000 volumes, it’s most famous for the hanging steel shelves that seem to stretch back into a mirrored eternity. These make up the complicated surrounding for the striking work of artist Gabriel Orozco, below. With gardens, a greenhouse and bookstore, it’s also a major example of ecologically sensitive architecture, lit almost entirely by natural outdoor light. The building is designed to permit the even entry of light while avoiding damage to the books. It’s designed to expand to eventually hold up to 2 million books.
For travelers who love books and reading, there’s no place more enchanting than a big, beautiful library. Being surrounded by thousands of books is a dream for many, but there are some libraries that take things to the next level with their jaw-dropping interiors like the ones above. These are the kinds of places that act like shrines to the written word, whether they are steeped in centuries of history or are the cutting edge of modern design.
Thank you for visiting my blog and reading today’s post. I hope you all have a lovely week and manage to stay as warm as possible. Until next week, bye for now!