Libraries often act as such cultural gathering places, whether enshrining masterpieces or hosting present-day events. This article is about few of the most awe-inspiring libraries of the world.
The baroque Library Hall, with its rare gilded globes and spectacular frescoes depicting science and art, is just one building in the vast Clementinum complex. Legend says the Jesuits had only one book when they started building the library in 1622; when they were done, the collection had swelled to 20,000 volumes. Labels on the bookshelves are original to the library’s opening, as are volumes with “whitened backs and red marks,” markers left by the Jesuits.
George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
The Peabody Stack Room’s five-tier soaring atrium has wrought-iron balconies and columns so graceful that Nathaniel H. Morison, its first provost, called it a “cathedral of books.” It’s one of America’s most beautiful college libraries, with a setting so gorgeous that weddings and special events are often held here. Bibliophiles come not only for the design but to browse 18th- and 19th-century volumes of archaeology as well as British and American history and literature.
Central Library of Vancouver, Canada
Architect Moshe Safdie’s creation resembles a modern-day Colosseum. You enter the Central Library through a huge skylit concourse, which contains shops and cafés and acts as an urban gathering point. Bridges inside the library connect to reading and study areas in the outer walls. Plans are under way to reclaim two of the building’s top floors from other tenants in order to expand the rooftop garden and make it accessible to the public.
Musashino Art University Museum and Library, Tokyo
Presenting the most library-like library ever: Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto designed the Art University’s 26,900-square-foot space to be constructed from light-wood bookshelves walled in with glass. Even the stairs have built-in shelves, though they’re currently empty. Compared by Fujimoto to “a forest of books,” the building stands as a powerful visual testament to the bound book’s enduring power.
Stuttgart City Library, Germany
From the outside, the nine-story building can appear as a monolithic cube. But at sunset, the façade’s glass bricks take on a glow, and after dark, they are illuminated with blue lights. Inside, the dramatic all-white interior has a five-story reading room shaped as an upside-down pyramid, plus meeting rooms, a café, and a rooftop terrace. The arresting building was designed to become the city’s, cultural heart. Patrons are welcome to settle in with a book or turn up after hours for the “Library for Insomniacs,” which keeps a small selection of material available all night long.