Four of our Favourite Libraries from Around the World

Wednesday May 23, 2018 Written by Taz Liffman

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Image: Courtesy of National Geographic

Libraries may be the storehouses of our knowledge, the redound of theory and thought upon which we’ve built our civilisations, but they're not exactly known for, well, seductive design. Stuffy, musty, big on order and manned by folk who love nothing more than telling you to ‘shush’, they’re solemn places. Serious places. Ponderous places. Bookish places. Sometimes, though, a city/abbey/resort goes all out and decides that their library can be both practical and stylish. Here are four of our top finds from around the world. 

The Abbey Library of Saint Gall in Switzerland (above), features frescoes on its ceilings, beautifully burnished woodwork and winding balconies and alcoves. Helpful little cherubs, seated on the shelves in various poses, offer clues directing you to the section you’re seeking.

Then there's the Museum of Picture Books in Iwaki City, Japan...

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Image courtesy of National Geographic

It's a privately owned library that was built in 2005 to serve three nearby preschools. Designed by self-taught local architect Tadao Ando, the library uses its contents to beautify its interior: books are shelved with their covers on display rather than their spines, rendering the walls one big, ever-changing pixelation.

While reading is only one of the pastimes able to be enjoyed in The Den, a purpose-built learning centre that’s part of the Soneva Kiri resort in Thailand, it’s nay a shabby place in which to do it. Plotted amongst the jungle and built from bamboo, the structure is fitted out with hammocks, nooks, pods and hanging baskets. From outside, it's apparently intended to remind one of a manta ray.

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Image: Soneva Kiri 

OK so the fourth cab off the ranks isn't the homeliest library going round, but the City Library of Stuttgart is nothing if not sleek. Spotlessly white and verging on the clinical, one can only suppose this would be the library you come to for maximum reading efficiency (or to pretend you're starring in your very own sci-film flick).

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Image: Juan Urdaneta