Gone are the days when you’d be met with annoyed glances if you so much as dropped a pin in a library. Changing times have forced the culture of libraries to change as well. They’ve always been a treasure house full of stories to be read, have inspired many thoughtful films and have been adapted to suit the digital age as well. Call me old-fashioned, but the cliché about the feel of a book in the hand can never beat the endless swiping of pages on a kindle.
It’s no wonder that libraries are still very popular and their interiors are often very exquisite. Let’s look at some of these very libraries which continue to remain a hub for book lovers all over the world, especially because of their beautiful architecture. Just this once, we’ll judge a book by its cover.
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
Think Harry Potter, X-Men and Downton Abbey. One visit to the Bodleian group of Libraries which happen to be some of the world’s oldest and most exquisitely designed libraries will send you down a road of nostalgia coupled with awe at the regal looking reading rooms. Known to most scholars and students as ‘the Bod’, the Bodleian Library, in particular, is characterized by its intricate English Gothic architecture which still stands strong ever since it was opened in 1602. It’s no surprise that such an ancient library would be home to some of the world’s oldest texts such as a copy of the Gutenberg Bible from way back in 1455.
That’s not all, the mammoth library also claims to own a copy of every single book published in the UK. If you remember the scenes where Harry used to sneak off under his invisibility cloak and into the restricted parts of the Hogwarts library, then you’ll be pleased to know that it was filmed in Duke Humfrey’s Library. You can walk in for a cozy and quiet place to read and work to your heart’s content or enlist in guided tours to discover the magical secrets of Hogwarts by walking the hallways that the Harry Potter trio once did.
UNAM Central Library, Mexico
This iconic building is sure to make you stop right in your tracks because covering every inch of the towering 10-floor library’s exterior is an amalgamation of stones in every colour possible. The stone mural illustrates Mexican events right from historic wars to the present times and even an imagined future. The incredible building doesn’t just have painted stones, but local stones were chosen each with its own colour to adorn the exterior of the building. This tiled mural represents the ancient past of Mexican Culture, where each façade tells a different story: northern describes the Aztec culture, southern represents the colonial times, eastern shows the creation of modern Mexico and the western is about the Latin American culture. The UNAM Central Library manages to capture the country’s rich history with a kind of symbolic visual poetry.
Biblioteca de Mafra, Portugal
Thousands of leather-bound books engraved in gold line the walls of this impressive library. They tell us that the books aren’t ordinary: they’re valuables. The majestic library’s greatest treasure is its Rococo-style bookcases, marble-floored library and a collection of more than 36,000 books in whose pages centuries of knowledge, culture, and wisdom are condensed. Mafra’s walls are lined with Lioz, (a rare type of limestone) which gives it an ivory sheen. Natural sunlight invades the hall through the skylight and windows, illuminating the main floor which is covered in strikingly pink, grey and white marble. But the best part about this library probably is the fact that bats help preserve the books by gorging on the insects which might otherwise damage the ancient texts.
Kanazawa Umimirai Library, Japan
The Japanese do it differently. There has been a rise in the trend of using space to give you a sense of emotional and spiritual wellness by surrounding yourself with books. The model gives rise to a culture of staying and reading instead of just the mechanical process of lending out books. The Kanazawa Umimirai library in Japan does just this, but with a twist. The single, quiet room resembles a forest filled with soft light which filters through perforated the walls of the library—this gives the impression of being outdoors. In addition, the burden of seismic force from any earthquakes is dispersed across the entire expanse of the walls. The reading rooms in this library provide visitors with a pleasant, comfortable space to read. It allows them to indulge in the joy of reading which brings humans and books closer. Often called the ‘cake box’, this library hopes to turn into a symbol for the western part of the city which faces rapid urbanization.
Vennesla Library and Culture House, Norway
There’s no question that there’s a unique pleasure to the experience of sitting down to read while being surrounded by the overwhelming presence of physical books. Sometimes all you need to do is take a deep breath and look at your surroundings and marvel at the number of books stacked in the library you’re at. That’s something you just don’t get with electronic reading materials. The Vennesla library is one library building which looks as exquisite on the inside as it does on the outside. Laminated timber ribs support the roof, giving it a look reminiscent of a whale’s skeleton. Both the exterior and the interior are uniquely designed with the ribs spanning the entire length and width of the building while slowly condensing to create smaller, quaint rooms. The chunky ribs bend along the ceiling and the walls to provide sheltered reading zones nestled along the perimeter. Natural light streams in through glazed windows. Moreover, the library is considered an energy saving one due to its sophisticated architecture and built. The library also has a café, meeting places, admin areas and links a learning center and community center together. The Vennesla Library and Culture House is often said to have a strong identity with a sweeping view.