Top Ten: Libraries
November 24, 2010
Technologically up-to-date eyes are turning to Kindle and iPad screens these days, but let’s not rush the demise of the book. Before the digital revolution democratized information there was the public library– a building designed to house knowledge, and make that knowledge accessible. Bibliophiles at heart, we know that essential to keeping books circulating is keeping book culture modern.
These great libraries are sure to inspire you to sit down and spend some time with a new book, and while you are there contemplate how innovative public spaces can inspire cultural interaction and dialogue.
In a well-timed twist, our friends at Flavorwire recently rounded up their ten favorite public libraries in the US. We’re expanding that purview to an international crowd and focusing primarily on contemporary design. Know of any we left out? Make a case for them in the comments. Without further ado:
New York Public Library, Battery Park City branch. From the outside the new branch of the New York Public Library looks like the rest of Battery Park City, step inside though and see the traditional warmth of a library translated into a modern lexicon. 1110 architects created a sleek yet cozy space that is most remarkable for its eco-mindedness. Cardboard, tires and glass chips are repurposed into building material and sunlight infuses the low energy lighting scheme in bright, open reading areas. It’s the first LEED-certified public library branch in Manhattan.
Image (l) (c) Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times.
NYPL 50th street station branch. Who doesn’t want to be let in on a good secret. The NYPL outpost at the 50th street 6 Station is great precisely because of its diminutive size. It inserts itself into the daily grind encouraging commuters to pick up some reading material for the train.
Art, Architecture and Design library, Muenster, Germany. Of course the mention of an architecture library get us excited, and the Art, Architecture and Design library at the Leonardo campus in Muenster, Germany does for good reason. Attached to the horse stables of former army barracks-turned-university, the glass walls challenge the typical reclusiveness of the library.
Parque Biblioteca España, Medellín, Colombia. Over looking the city the boulder like forms the Parque España library refer to their mountainous context and give the institution a commanding presence in an impoverished neighborhood. The library is easily accessible by public transportation to local residents and also functions as an auditorium and community center.
Library for picture books in Iwaki City. Tadao Ando’s library for picture books in Iwaki City, Japan caters to its young audience with books arranged in cubbyholes across the walls, large staircases for casual reading and open spaces to fill with imagination and play.
Royal Library of Copenhagen In contrast to the surrounding Baroque, the Royal Library of Copenhagen leans out towards a canal, earning its dark and monolithic nickname “the black diamond.” On the inside though, light pours in to illuminate the vibrant mutli-use space of the library. A museum, café, bookshop and conference center bring liveliness and chatter to a typically silent building typology, and turn books into the raison d’être of a social space.
Libraries in Delft Netherlands. Delft, Netherlands is home to two wonderful libraries that have to share one spot on this list. The library of the Technological University is perfectly understated. Its sloped exterior serves as a lawn and social space for university students and ski spot for kids in the winter. The DOK concept library across town has been called one of the worlds most modern: it houses a collection of music, art and literature and integrates media into interior structure and furniture to expand the library’s learning purview.
Seattle Central Library. The jutting angles, tiered cantilever and open plan of the Seattle Public Library are equally eye catching as they are functional. The diamond crossed glass façade lightens an enlightened interior and interior circulation makes information well organized and accessible, while facilitating encounters between staff and patrons, especially in the media-equipped lobby “living room.”
New York Public Library, Main Branch. It may be the classic choice, but there is a reason why the New York Public Library still wows us. The grand marble staircase and frescoed ceilings of the famed reading rooms are reminders of the great cultural significance of libraries– recalling a time when people made pilgrimages to great halls of knowledge and civic pride was chiseled into its alabaster walls.