A Look at Some of the World's Most Beautiful Libraries - Through the Eyes of a Library Designer
I thought you might could use a little break from my more serious Library talk. And what better way than to flood your senses with some of the world's most beautiful Libraries. I did a google search and found that Conde Nast Traveler has posted their list of top favorites. And some of these are in a book I own that features detail after precious detail about some of these magnificent structures. So I'm pretty familiar with them. But instead of just posting someone else's photos and telling you what they say about them, I want to break with tradition slightly and tell you what I see in these images as a Library designer. Well that and a shameless admirer of pristine architecture. Like myself, my guess is that as avid readers, you too have an appreciation for the beauty of the buildings these books inhabit. So for the next few minutes, turn off the chaos of the day and scroll through these beautiful images and see what I see. Some might even make your bucket list of Libraries to visit one day. My apologies in advance if these give you the bug to travel.
ABBEY LIBRARY OF SAINT GALL - SWITZERLAND
My favorite thing about this Library is the almost-overwhelming attention to detail. The wood work is fantastic and produces a sense of regal uniformity. And if you'll notice how the spines of the collection of books blends in so well with the shelving, flooring and other surrounding wood details. I imagine the purpose of this was to offset the stunning ceiling artwork with it's pale-framed intricacies. You see the the books and the warm wood tones when you first enter and you are taken aback by it all. But THEN you look up. That's where the magic is happening. I have studied this Library in other books and it never gets old.
ADMONT ABBEY LIBRARY - AUSTRIA
This Library is utterly astounding in its brilliantly airy feel. Clearly the collection of books is not what is on display. They've kept the tones of the bookcases soft and creamy in nature so that the dazzling artwork overhead stands out and stuns the viewer with every moment spent in this space. I'm willing to bet that people spend the majority of their time looking up. And for those of us who find ourselves severely distracted by all the fluttering titles on shelves anywhere we go, that's a tough task to achieve!
CALGARY CENTRAL LIBRARY - ALBERTA, CANADA
This one is clearly all about art and light. Such intelligent design where pockets of light are created while simultaneously incorporating the structural façade of this city's treasure. I'm also infatuated with the fact that a train is circling beneath it. You know the acoustics engineering on this building was given a great deal of attention. It is also not lost on me that the shell of the building is basically white. This reflective surface will naturally increase the amount of light pouring into the window openings so as to maximize all light both inside and outside of the building. What an astounding Library to visit.
HANDELINGENKAM ER LIBRARY - HAGUE, NETHERLANDS
Jewel tones, jewel tones, and more jewel tones. And since red is known to spark creativity, it seems this color was possibly well thought out for all of the intricate design work on the balconies. The intensity of the color is balanced out by the rich gold parquet wood floors and of course the filigree and ceiling details. This collection of books draws me in as well. There seems to be such order about them on the main and second levels, but as you rise up to the third and final levels, they are a bit more chaotic and relaxed. That section is calling to me.
LIBRARY OF BIRMINGHAM - ENGLAND
Are you getting circle vibes with this one? How can you not?! Take note of the blatant simplicity of the interior space. Shelving is almost cold in its shape except for the warm wood tone used to break up some of the institutionalist feel being cast by the concrete style columns, stark white floor and black ceilings. The furniture is also pretty easy to miss since they've used a clean slate black bar-height table with metal-rimmed pedestal stools. None of this is an accident or even poor design. Quite the opposite. All the sterile interior finishes are ever-so-intentional so that the metal exterior façade can radiate the beauty that is found in its incessant curves. The point is for the sun-rich design to pour through and cascade onto the bare white floors. The design is all in the shadows. And the ring-light fixtures overhead draw even more curve to this space along with the round columns. No accidents here. Someone's brilliance is on full display in Birmingham!
LIBRARY OF EL ESCORIAL MONASTERY - MADRID, SPAIN
Again with the artwork. Such beauty! Heavy wood work, detailed scenes depicted on the walls and ceilings and rows and rows of red and gold Greek Key design arching your way down the corridor. I'm also in love with the black and white tiled floors. I can't tell if it's marble or slate from this image but most likely a timeless marble. The pattern seems random but helps break up the movement taking place from the base of the shelving up by providing a grounding effect for anyone who is fortunate enough to walk these halls. The globe in the forefront of the room also captures my attention. I would love to get closer to see the many details and patterns.
MAFRA NATIONAL PALACE LIBRARY - PORTUGAL
Yes please!!! This Library has achieved something very different from most of the other images I've posted. Instead of creating an elaborate ceiling detail, this one has put all its attention to detail in the floor. And what magnificent detail is is. The colors are soft and pale for the most part but the circles of gold are outlined in a stark black to bring a life to them that would not otherwise be noticed. I love that they've still added cutouts to the trim work of the ceilings but the white paint insists that your attention remain on the floors. The books carry similar hues to the floor colors as well and the vast amount of windows lets in such a glorious cascade of light that the room almost has an ethereal feel to it. Furthermore, this picture is one that you can actually hear and not just see. The echoes of this room ring loudly in my mind just at the mere glace into the facets of this space.
The world has so many treasures to see and experience. But perhaps some of the most awe-inspiring are the world's most beautiful Libraries. From dark rich jewel tones to bright open airy arenas of space, these are masterpieces all unto themselves. But the question that turns over and over in my mind is that with such beauty, thought and detail put into each and every one of these amazing rooms, what grand collections of books they must be so valiantly protecting.