9 stunningly beautiful libraries to see before you die
This article originally appeared on 07.22.16
In movies, libraries are often beautiful, magical treasure troves.
National Treasure starring Nicholas cage took the concept quite literally. The fantastical Harry Potter movie series and comedies like Legally Blonde and The Breakfast Club, all find a way to showcase the highly creative space to be found in a library.
But what’s a library in real life? Run-of-the-mill book storage, you say? Is anyone actually visiting these places anymore, anyway?
To be sure, if you haven’t been in a bit, you could be missing out.
Libraries are magical archives of humanity. And some of them are just downright beautiful.
Here are nine of the most beautiful libraries in the world:
1. The New York Public Library
This one’s a star: It’s been featured in “Sex and the City,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “13 Going on 30,” “Spiderman,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” … and for good reason! When you walk into The New York Public Library, you can’t help but say to yourself, “This looks like a movie set!” But instead, it’s your very own, open-to-the-public-anytime-you’re-in-town library.
2. Mexico City’s Biblioteca Vasconcelos
This is really the library to end all libraries. But it’s also the Seabiscuit of libraries. It started its life a little bit injured. After its construction in 2006, lauded by then-president Vicente Fox as one of the most advanced constructions of the modern century, it was found to have a lot of problems.
Fortunately, it was closed down and designers put its marble blocks back in the right place and reopened it 22 months later in 2008. And now this M.C.-Escher-painting-come-to-life is available for any and all to visit.
Image via Audra Hubbell/Instagram, used with permission.
3. The library at El Escorial in Spain
This library is located in the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, aka the King of Spain’s Super Catholic Castle. It has some very seriously religious books in it, including Arab and Hebrew manuscripts (in libraries, all religions live peacefully, side by side, in book form) and some light reading, like Beatus de Liébana’s centuries-old “Commentary on the Apocalypse.” Sit back and relax!
4. The Stockholm Public Library
Located in Sweden, this library opened in 1928 and was that country’s first library to have open shelves. Libraries before it required visitors to ask for a librarian’s assistance, but with this one, some of the power was handed to the people. It was clearly designed with that function in mind, but — wow — the form is also so beautiful!
5. The Library of Congress
Located in Washington, D.C., this library houses the books of America, an archive of Twitter, a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Stradivarius, the first book known to be printed in America (in 1640!), and millions of newspapers, maps, sheet music, comic books from history — just for starters.
The things you find at the Library of Congress and other libraries — they archive more than just books! — seem like they should be in that weird cavern in the movie “National Treasure.” But they’re right there in D.C. in a library, not a secret underground stash. No need for Nic Cage!
Plus, this library has a pretty sweet reading room, too.
Oh, and its great Great Hall isn’t bad either.
6. The Admont Abbey Library
Located in Austria, this library looks a whole lot like a Disney dream come true. It’s the largest monastic library in the world, with a length of 70 meters — about as long as four semi trucks. Its ceilings depict the stages of human knowledge, ending appropriately to its location with divine revelation. It also has excellent natural light.
7. Abbey Library of St. Gallen
Located in Switzerland, it is the country’s oldest library and has volumes that date back to the eighth century. In addition to its contents, the delightfully fairytalelike-named Peter Thumb designed the library in a Rococo style that earned this library the status of a World Heritage Site.
8. Delft University of Technology Library
Located in the Netherlands, this modern piece of library goodness designed by local architecture firm Mecanoo in 1997 has what I can only describe as “Star Trek-ian” flair.
Look at those blue walls! And the cone skylight (below) looks like a teleporter. It seems like it would feel like being in the world’s most friendly iPhone spaceship.
And yes — that’s a grass ceiling. Beam me up!
9. Remains of the library of Celsus at Ephesus
Located in Turkey, this library was completed in 135 A.D. That’s a long time ago but not even close to as long ago as the first library, which is said to have been built around 2600 B.C. in Mesopotamia.
Libraries are beautiful archives of human wonderfulness, literally and figuratively.
Sometimes the movies know exactly what they’re doing when they share story in the houses that hold them.
There’s something there (in my heart for libraries) that wasn’t there before!
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