Tianjin Binhai Library, Tianjin Binhai, China

Tianjin Binhai Library
MRDRV
Tianjin Binhai, China

Within MRDRV’s futurist Tianjin Binhai Library, a rippling wave of cascading bookcases stretches from the floor to the ceiling. These bookcases orbit the luminous ‘Eye’: an enclosed sphere that contains an auditorium space. Of the five storeys, the first two consist primarily of reading rooms, book storage and lounge areas. The upper floors offer meeting rooms, offices, computer and audio rooms and two rooftop spaces.

Photography: Ossip van Duivenbode. Writer: Luke Halls

Tianjin Binhai Library, Tianjin Binhai, China

Tianjin Binhai Library
MRDRV
Tianjin Binhai, China

The library is part of a larger framework that sees the city of Tianjin Binhai receive a whole new cultural district. Spanning some 33,700 sq m, the project took only three years to complete following its initial sketch up. It now acts as a junction point for the city’s Central Business District, old town, residential districts, commercial areas and government quarter.

Photography: Ossip van Duivenbode. Writer: Luke Halls

Yangzhou bookstore, Yangzhou, China

The writing’s on the walls, ceiling and floors of Yangzhou’s bookshop, where an optical illusion turns an ordinary, rectangular room into a cylindrical tunnel. Created by Shanghai-based studio XL-Muse for book retailers Zhongshuge, a black mirrored floor paired with two walls of arched shelving helps to create a seemingly never-ending funnel of books.

Photography: Shao Feng. Writer: Elly Parsons

Yangzhou bookstore, Yangzhou, China

The design is inspired by the rich cultural heritage of Yangzhou, said to be a historical gathering place for literati and poets. The lead designer Li Xiang took inspiration from a verse in the classic Chinese romance novel A Dream of Red Mansions, by Cao Xueqin, which is thought to refer to the area in which the shop now stands. (‘Spring flower and autumn moon, green hills and clear water; 24 bridges, relics of the Six Dynasties,’ it reads.) The arched shelving represents the ‘24 bridges’ in Xueqin’s verse, and a swerving line in the ceiling represents the ‘clear water’ or river. Visitors are supposed to flow with the river, swept along by the black mirrored floor, deeper into the bookshop and ‘into the vast ocean of knowledge,’ explains Xiang.

Photography: Shao Feng. Writer: Elly Parsons

Qatar National Library, Doha, Qatar

Qatar National Library
OMA
Doha, Qatar

Completed in 2016, OMA’s Qatar National Library was conceptualised to express the importance of the book in the 21st century. Consequently, its design intertwines study, research, collaboration and interaction. The library is conceived as a single room, bringing together thousands of readers with its million-volume-strong collection, which includes important and rare Middle Eastern manuscripts.

Photography: Iwan Baan. Writer: Luke Halls

Qatar National Library, Doha, Qatar

Qatar National Library
OMA
Doha, Qatar

The building’s edges are elevated, which gives it a triangular geometry both inside and out. Rows of shelving are thus topographically expressed, flowing down from above and interspersed with mixed-use spaces. They are also materially linked to the building, rising from its white marble flooring. Six metres below the main level, the library’s heritage collection is housed in a seemingly excavated space, dug out from beige travertine.

Photography: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti. Writer: Luke Halls

Utopia library, Aalst, Belgium

KAAN Architecten
Aalst, Belgium

Puzzling its way through the Flemish city of Aalst’s irregular streets and stray squares, Utopia (as the building has been named) comprises a sprawling 8,000 sq m structure extending from the shell of a former military school, which now serves a dual purpose as the city’s library and performing arts academy.

Photography: © Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti. Writer: Elly Parsons

Utopia library, Aalst, Belgium

KAAN Architecten
Aalst, Belgium

The building’s renovation has been so sensitive and seamless that it’s difficult to know if you’re standing in the new extension or the old schoolhouse; but outside the distinction is subtly marked by the direction of the ‘Red Aalst’ brickwork – long flat bricks are laid horizontally across the new extension, to counter the vertically-oriented bricks of the old school façade.

Photography: © Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti. Writer: Elly Parsons

Tingbjerg Library and Culture House, Copenhagen, Denmark

Tingbjerg Library and Culture House
COBE
Copenhagen, Denmark

COBE’s slender, street-length library and culture house in Tingbjerg is an extension of the local school, and has given the Copenhagen neighbourhood a new lease of life. The firm selected a material palate inspired by the area’s rich modernist lexicon, including yellow brickwork and warm wooden plywood, paying respect to and blending into the surroundings. At its narrowest, the building is only 1.5m wide.

Photography: Rasmus Hjortshøj. Writer: Luke Halls

Tingbjerg Library and Culture House, Copenhagen, Denmark

Tingbjerg Library and Culture House
COBE
Copenhagen, Denmark

The building’s final design is the result of collaboration between not just the Tingbjerg School and COBE, but also the neighbourhood’s residents and social housing corporations fsb and SAB. Fulfilling the needs of a diverse user range resulted in an aesthetic inspired by a typeset case. Onlookers are able to peer into the library’s internal ongoings through a transparent glass façade. Visitors can engage with a number of activities in spaces geared to provide classes, workshops, lectures and musical performances.

Photography: Rasmus Hjortshøj. Writer: Luke Halls

Tecnológico de Monterrey New Main Library, Monterrey, Mexico

Tecnológico de Monterrey New Main Library
Sasaki Associates
Monterrey, Mexico

Sasaki Associates was first drafted in by Tecnológico de Monterrey to transform its original 1969 library. The firm was met with a hurdle – the building was in dire need of extremely costly seismic upgrades, which would heavily limit any proposed future development. As a result, the New Main Library now stands in place of its predecessor, and features an open-plan layout that considers future flexibility and today’s larger student body.

Photography: Jorge Taboada. Writer: Luke Halls

Tecnológico de Monterrey New Main Library, Monterrey, Mexico

Tecnológico de Monterrey New Main Library
Sasaki Associates
Monterrey, Mexico

The transparent structure expands upon the previous library’s functionality, providing 150,000 books; two special collections; new teaching laboratories and private and group study spaces. Larger study spaces are internally and externally boxed by books, and feature overhead terraces that act as social lounges. At the rooftop level, a sky terrace provides a unique panorama of the university campus and the Cerro de la Silla mountain, its backdrop.

Photography: Jorge Taboada. Writer: Luke Halls

Seashore Library, Nadaihe, China

Vector Architects are the imaginative brains behind this ocean and book-lover’s paradise. Set on China’s Bohai Sea Coast, the modern concrete structure keeps things simple as the dramatic views do all the work. Vector’s lead architect Gong Dong wanted to express a series of complex relationships in the design, negotiating the idea of boundary, the movement of the human body, the shifting light and the ocean view.

Photography: Xia Zhi. Writers: Daisy Alioto and Frederika Fraser

Seashore Library, Nadaihe, China

You may have trouble focusing on your book as panoramic windows are thrown open to let in the sounds of the surf; fortunately, the library’s meditation rooms account for that. Retreat to the top floor, where window slits let in just the right amount of light to illuminate the areas under the curved concrete ceiling.

Photography: Xia Zhi. Writer: Daisy Alioto

Venessia Library and Cultural Centre, Venessia, Norway

In 2011, Norwegian firm Helen & Hard (Siv Helene Stangeland & Reinhard Kropf) completed this distinctive ‘ribbed’ library design. Fins of heartwood pine on the building’s exterior certainly draw the eye, but the true treat is the interior, where 27 pre-fabricated timber ribs wrap the space, becoming part of the seating at ground level.

Venessia Library and Cultural Centre, Venessia, Norway

While in lesser hands the wrapping effect might be skeletal, here it is futuristic. And despite the literary merit of a whale’s belly, there is something even more fitting about a library that connotes time travel. Elsewhere, oak parquetry is applied on all floors, and plywood veneer birch is used for fixted fittings. The construction conforms to low energy standards: the interior is kept warm by a single central geothermal heat pump; timber comes from renewable sources; and air is released through a rib ‘add-on’ level, returning through the ribs at the ceiling.

Writers: Daisy Alioto and Frederika Fraser

Hyundai Card Music Library, Seoul, South Korea

Of course, libraries aren’t just for books. The Hyundai Card Music Library by architect Moongyu Choi hosts over 10,000 vinyls and some 3,000 music-related tomes – 2,600 of which are either extremely rare or out of print. The library is only open to Hyundai Card Holders and guests, but the designers imagine that the attached performance space and murals by the likes of JR will invigorate the local music community.

Hyundai Card Music Library, Seoul, South Korea

The project embraces the site’s sloping topography and frames Seoul’s iconic views, such as the Namsan Mountain and the Han River. The building’s geometry creates different levels and a variety of spaces, which aid circulation and offer different views of the building and surrounding environment. Interiors by Gensler, while refined, stick with the theme of urban materials.

Library of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Dutch firm Mecanoo Architecten won the opportunity to design the largest public library in Europe. In a brutalist city, the Library of Birmingham’s ringed facade certainly stands out. But it’s actually a nod to two other city institutions – the steel and metal industries.

Photography: Christian Richters. Writer: Daisy Alioto

Library of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

The core of the design is the Book Rotunda, where elevators ferry visitors across the openings between floors. However, it’s another rotunda on the roof of the building that will catch a theater-lover’s fancy: the Shakespeare Memorial Room from the library’s original Victorian building has been carefully reassembled at new heights.

Photography: Christian Richters. Writer: Daisy Alioto

The Weston Library, Oxford, UK

In 2015, Oxford’s original New Bodleian library reopened as The Weston Library with a redesign by London firm Wilkinson Eyre. The refurb includes nods to original architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott with lighting reminiscent of his narrow vertical windows. It also incorporates a 15th-century gateway that once stood in London’s Victoria and Albert museum.

Photography: Ben Bisek for Wilkinson Eyre Architects. Writer: Daisy Alioto

The Weston Library, Oxford, UK

The architects gutted and then rebuilt the centre of the building to give it a new heart in the form of Blackwell Hall, a 13.5m high space with views in from many of the library’s internal corridors and narrow linear roof lights that echo ‘the long thin repeated vertical windows of many of Gilbert Scott’s buildings,’ states Jim Eyre.

Photography: Ben Bisek for Wilkinson Eyre Architects. Writer: Giovanna Dunmall

Dokk1 Library, Aarhus, Denmark

Dokk1 exemplifies the new function of the urban and community library as a gathering place for entertainment that goes beyond books. Sitting next to the Aarhus river and above a light rail station, Dokk1 is also a unifying element in a landscape once dominated by dockyards. The creators imagined the building as less of a library and more of a ‘Mediaspace’. In true Danish fashion, Dokk1 will also be an access point for local government services.

Dokk1 Library, Aarhus, Denmark

Set in the heart of Aarhus on a riverside site, Dokk1 is also a regeneration story. An integral element of the drive to link the city’s old docklands to the historic centre, the €280m library comprises a series of stratified layers, starting with a public plaza fronting onto a glazed ground floor, and going on to embrace a multi-storey interior space, with exhibition areas, reading rooms, cafés, and even play areas and a children’s theatre.

Stormen Konserthus, Bodø, Norway

Bodø – a Norwegian peninsula in the Arctic Circle – was significantly damaged during the Second World War. Stormen Konserthus by British firm DRDH Architects is a combination library and concert hall that was central to the city’s reconstruction. Although the building is unlike anything else in the town, the architects still made an attempt to speak the local vernacular, with a ribbed concrete façade that mirrors local timber. Meanwhile, the library’s large windows bring the harbour indoors.

Photography: David Grandorge. Writer: Daisy Alioto

Stormen Konserthus, Bodø, Norway

The building also looks towards the city. DRDH cut away corners of the buildings to create spatial relationships with bars across the street, and a subtle inclination in the front façade of the library makes way for a sculpture by Norwegian artist AK Dolven. ‘We wanted to create a street scene in the centre of the city once more,’ says DRDH co-director Daniel Rosbottom.

Photography: David Grandorge. Writer: Malaika Byng

Tama Art University Library, Tokyo, Japan

Tama Art University Library
Toyo Ito & Associates
Tokyo, Japan

Toyo Ito’s library is an example of outstanding campus architecture, thanks to the ingenious structure and spatial organisation. His preliminary design for an underground space was eventually raised above ground; turned upside down, the scooped out volume adopted the arch as the best way of dividing up the space, while simultaneously articulating the exterior of the building. 

Photography: Ishiguro Photographic Institute

Tama Art University Library, Tokyo, Japan

The sloping surface of the ground floor, used for exhibitions, plays and dance performances, stimulates creativity, according to the architect. The most challenging technical element to construct was the 20-centimetre thin curved walls, which contain steel plates for reinforcement in the middle and specially curved glass to keep the façade clean.

Photography: Ishiguro Photographic Institute
 

José Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City, Mexico

At the Alberto Kalach-designed José Vasconcelos Library are five distinct reading rooms dedicated to key Mexican intellectuals. Taken as a whole, the project is called the City of Books. The spaces, devoted to Ali Chumacero, Carlos Monsiváis, José Luis Martínez, Jaime García Terrés and Antonio Castro Leal were designed by Jorge Calvillo, JSa Arquitectura, Alejandro Sánchez García Arquitectos, Arquitectura 911sc and BGP Architects respectively.

José Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City, Mexico

The west wing of the library is dedicated entirely to the late Carlos Monsiváis, an influential Mexican writer, journalist and political activist. Designed by JSa, the biblioteca holds Monsiváis’ extensive personal collection of literature, uniquely arranged according to the influence of each book on his literary evolution. Among the towering shelves are several works of art from Monsiváis’ compatriot, renowned painter and sculptor Francisco Toledo.

Writers: Ellie Stathaki and Romy Van Den Broeke

Salt Lake City Public Library, Utah, USA

Salt Lake City Public Library
Moshe Safdie
Utah, US

In 2003, Moshe Safdie’s design for Salt Lake City’s public library transformed the city into an architecture destination. Working with local firm VCBO Architecture, Safdie borrowed elements from his Vancouver Public Library (1995) design while staying site-specific. Bustling spaces on the bottom levels give way to quieter areas for reflection on the upper floors, which are oriented around Wasatch Mountain views.

Photography: BellaOra Studios courtesy of Salt Lake City Public Library. Writer: Daisy Alioto

Salt Lake City Public Library, Utah, USA

Salt Lake City Public Library
Moshe Safdie
Utah, US

According to the library, ‘more than one percent of the construction cost of the Main Library was dedicated to public art.’ This includes immersive artworks in the Children’s Room by German artist Karl Schlamminger who previously collaborated with Safdie on MIT’s Class of 1959 Chapel. Additional on-site spaces include an outdoor piazza and open-air amphitheatre, which is lined by a six-storey walkable wall that leads to a rooftop garden. 

Photography: BellaOra Studios courtesy of Salt Lake City Public Library. Writers: Daisy Alioto and Luke Halls

Geisel Library, San Diego, USA

Geisel Library
William Pereira
San Diego, US

So named because it houses the Dr. Seuss collection, the Geisel Library was designed by William Pereira in the 1960s. The tiered Brutalist vision is eight stories, two of which are subterranean. Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts updated the design in the 1990s. Pereira may not have the same name recognition as other mid-century architects, but amidst today’s  resurgence, his design is as captivating as ever. California-native John Baldessari also lent his talents to the library in the form of permanent installation READ/WRITE/THINK/DREAM on the ground floor.

Photography: Erik Jepsen and UC San Diego Publications. Writer: Daisy Alioto

Geisel Library, San Diego, USA

Geisel Library
William Pereira
San Diego, US

The library accommodates 3,000 readers, and originally housed 2.5 million humanities and social sciences volumes over 255,000 sq ft. Its resting site was chosen from a shortlist of 19, and was selected as it displays ‘a sense of place’ and ‘spirit and nobility’. As it’s located at the heart of the campus, the library was elevated so as to not cause congestion at ground level, and also acts as a visual point of reference.

Photography: Erik Jepsen and UC San Diego Publications. Writer: Luke Halls

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New Haven, USA

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
SOM
New Haven, US

The Yale campus is practically a who’s who in modernist architecture. Joining buildings by Eero Saarinen and Philip Johnson is Gordon Bunshaft’s (SOM) 1963 home for the school’s rare books and manuscripts. The Beineke Library’s distinctly translucent marble facade serves a double function: filtering through just enough daylight not to damage its delicate wards, and emitting a nightly glow. If that doesn’t charm you, it also features a sculpture courtyard by Isamu Noguchi. 

Photography: Courtesy of Yale University Library. Writer: Daisy Alioto

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New Haven, USA

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
SOM
New Haven, US

Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a striking glass tower of books that rises through the centre of the building. A mezzanine level can also be found at the library’s heart, hosting rotating exhibits that showcase the expansive collections held within. Housed volumes of particular note include the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type, and John James Audubon’s Birds of America.

Photography: Courtesy of Yale University Library. Writer: Luke Halls

Source

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