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15 photos of extraordinary library design. Read this article en español.

Travelers Stoked on this Gallery

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About The Author

Sarah Park

Sarah Park is currently spending her quarter-life crisis in the beautiful Eastern Sierra. She spends her days snowboarding, hiking and not at all slipping into a soul-devouring existential dilemma. Don't worry, she's kidding... kinda.

  • http://ismoftheday.com Tony Mulqueen

    You should check out the Long Room at Trinity College Dublin (disclaimer: it’s my alma mater).
    The Long Room also houses one of the world’s most beautiful books (the Hiberno-Christian illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells).

    http://www.paddi.net/images/longroom.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells

    • Jason

      I was thinking of the Long Room at Trinity when looking at these picks…

      Very impressive building.

    • http://www.sarah-park.com Sarah

      Ahh, yes, I definitely wanted to include the Long Room. Apparently, photography is pretty restricted there, so it was tough to find a good capture. I LOVE this one, though: http://www.flickr.com/photos/visualistimages/3871900657/

      • http://JohnRRogers.com John Rogers

        Thank you Sarah for your kind words regarding my Trinity College Long Library photograph. http://www.flickr.com/photos/visualistimages/3871900657/ For those fans of great literary spaces here is another of my favorites.
        http://johnrrogers.com/paris/shakespeare-and-company-paris/ Unlike the Long Library photo I do actually have this one available for licensing and prints available for purchase. (A 20×30 of that one is actually hanging in my personal library)
        Thank you again,

        John R. Rogers

      • Lauren

        Apparently the Trinity Long Room was the model for the Star Wars Jedi Archives…

    • Karen

      yea, me too.Long room is spectacular. I was also thinking of the arts one where you can look out over the pav and cricket pitch.

  • Kathy

    What wonderful pictures! Some of the newly designed libraries are really architecturally stunning. Especially the one in Colombia–it really looks like something from another world!

    They all make me want to go it, pull up a chair and start reading. Thanks for compiling this collection!

  • http://www.perezstudios.com Perez Studios

    These are some very cool photos of some amazing libraries. Some of these are some amazing pieces of architecture. Simply amazing the things that they can build.

  • http://www.andrew-heaton.co.uk Andrew

    I’m no theologian but the Strahov Hall in Prague looks simply amazing. Makes our library (Shrewsbury) look like a horse’s arse…

    • Casey

      The Strahov Theological Hall in Prague is beautiful, but this photo is as close as the public goes. At least that was the case when I visited.

  • http://about.me/joaoalmeida João Almeida

    Technically this ain’t a library, it’s a book store, but it’s in the books theme and I had to share it because it’s truly amazing: the Lello bookstore at Porto, Portugal

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/miguelcalleja/3439509826/

    • http://www.sarah-park.com Sarah

      WOW! That is definitely impressive. Sort of makes me want to sing Beauty & the Beast’s “Be Our Guest” for some reason…

  • http://hellojoenguyen.com Joe

    The architect is amazing. Now how do I access all those books from my computer..

  • http://michelleschusterman.com Michelle Schusterman

    Beautiful!

    So awesome to see Seattle on there. I can see the table I sit at to work. Odd.

  • Matilda

    Where’s the Bodlien!?! Surely it deserves a place in this!

  • http://www.appuntidielisasanacore.com Elisa Sanacore

    Beautiful photos and beautiful architecture. I prefer the warmth and soft lighting. I do not like libraries too much natural light, and especially do not like the shadows formed by a lattice grid architecture.

  • Jason Wire

    These are awesome! One of the best libraries in the USA is Willard Library, the oldest still-operating library in Indiana. It’s incredibly well-preserved and has a famous ghost lurking around. Definitely worth checking out if you’re ever stopping through Evansville!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/sabroadbank Steve

    The library in Winchester Cathedral (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sabroadbank/3980714227) (England) is worth visiting as it not only has a vast collection of books ranging from the Middle Ages until the Victorian era, but contains the Winchester Bible which was produced between 1160 and 1175 – It’s incredible to see the craftsmanship that was available so long ago!

  • http://myscrapbookmisapuntes.wordpress.com/ Ana O’Reilly

    WOW! I can almost smell that wonderful smell of libraries. Thanks for this post!

  • http://www.sophiesworld.net Sophie

    …and the most famous of all – Library of Alexandria http://www.snoarc.no/#/projects/27/false/all/image/942/

    • Sue

      Thanks Sophie, the link you included showed me even more astonishing and creative architecture. I live in Melbourne and we have some nice buildings but, in my humble opinion, nothing to compare with these.

  • http://girlunstoppable.com Ekua

    I’m feeling ashamed that I have not seen any of these libraries in person when I’ve visited some of these cities. These libraries are awesome and it’s great to see books housed in such amazing buildings! Thanks for sharing, Sarah.

  • Sebas

    So glad you mentioned the Biblioteca Espana in Medellin, Colombia. Not only is it architecturally impacting but the social aspect behind it is incredible.

    This library is one of five Parques Biblioteca/’Library Parks’ (there are future ones in planning) all located in socio-political problem areas in Medellin, which along with innovations like the Metrocable, are meant to, as you said, enhance urban development and to provide more opportunity to the city’s poorest residents. In addition, the libraries are simultaneously parks of recreation and beauty for the community and are architecturally designed to reflect their natural surroundings, such as a large cliff rock formation in the case of Biblioteca Espana. “Our most beautiful buildings”, says Fajardo, former Mayor of Medellin, “must be in our poorest areas.”

    If anyone is interested, all the Parques Bibliotecas are truly amazing and each design is unique (if this list was longer, I’m sure more of these could be included) you can find so much more information online. Here are some pictures: http://www.reddebibliotecas.org.co/sites/Bibliotecas/Parques%20Biblioteca/Forms/Galera%20de%20fotos.aspx?View={AC3FF106-A9C4-4897-8836-33C24A5627C6}

    Whoa. I got a bit carried away, huh? A passionate Colombian always shows his true colors. Much love for the motherland.

    • Luz Patricia

      Claro!! La Biblioteca España, ubicada en el Barrio anto Dmingo Savio de Medellín es impresionante en su arquitectura y externamente impacta. Ya, una vez ingresas, te dás cuenta que es poco funcional (desde el punto de vista bibliotecológico) para el acceso de niños, personas mayores de edad. El impacto social y cultural es también un aspecto a destacar.

      Visiténla, vale la pena. Ls otros 4 parques biblioteca, también son muy bellos.

  • Sue

    Wow! Fantastic, awesome, beautiful, creative and utterly inspiring. Kind of lost for words? Not. The designers and architects of these buildings realized the tremendous and precious value of the collections within. Now they are libraries, but will they become museums in the future. Just a thought!

  • http://www.motravels.com MoTravels

    While I’ve been to the one in Delft because it’s not far from where I live, I’ve never considered libraries among a destination’s must see/do list until now. Thanks.

  • Kathy Bell

    Here in Texas we are firing libraians to make the state’s budget balance, See what too many Republicans will get you….

  • Al Taf

    you should have inclided Geisel library at UC San Diego!!

    • http://www.sarah-park.com Sarah

      Hahaha, I graduated from UCSD — I totally thought it would fit in here, but honestly… I can’t stand looking at that damn building anymore! :)

  • http://www.360portugal.com/Distritos.QTVR/Porto.VR/vilas.cidades/Porto/a5_lello.html Maria

    The most beautiful library doesn´t exist here. you must have inclided “Livraria Lello”, at Oporto, Portugal. check some pictures and then tell me something ;)

  • http://www.backpackforever.com/meet_matt_&_tran.php Tran

    Libraries SHOULD be as magnificent as major government buildings and banks. Wish we had made the time to see the one in Medellin–it looks incredible!

  • http://www.socialrific.com/ Socialrific

    Wow! Here I am at my computer reading and I could be at one of these libraries! LOL!!

  • http://www.conservatives.com David Cameron

    What a waste of money, close them all.

  • http://www.lopar-sanmarino.com/en/ lik654

    Great web site! I am realy happy stumbling upon it!

  • fuzzazni

    I think why some other architecturally astounding libraries are not included probably because they are externally amazing but internally not as much.

  • Bashar

    amaizing collection, you should also add the library of Alexandria in Egypt

  • Gortu

    Great post! Just like everyone else, I have a suggestion for you (but I can actually spell INCLUDED!)
    Consider INCLUDING the Vancouver Public Library. It appears that the Salt Lake City Library was inspired by this one.
    http://www.stare.ca/images/library_vancouver.jpg

  • http://trustmaggie.wordpress.com maggie

    gorgeous libraries!! I don’t spend enough time at libraries these days…. maybe if we had an awesome one like one of those around here I’d change that…

  • Erik Tanner

    The Wychood Library at St. Clair and Bathurst is pretty impressive too.

  • elisa

    Yes, the Salt Lake City one definitely reminds me of Vancouver (which I’d love to see on the list!) These are really gorgeous libraries.

  • Kevin

    The Yale Rare Books Library actually has 2 of the original Gutenberg Bibles, plus one of the first transcripts of the official rules of football!

  • Nox

    Haha, I have just stumbled this while at the Salt Lake City library ^^

  • madraz

    I must be the only one who finds the Biblioteca España library in Medellin, Colombia apalling. From the picture this building seems so out of touch with the surrounding environment, its does nothing to blend in with the neigbourhood.

    • Sebas

      That’s what people said about the Centre Pompidou, and even the Eiffel Tower, once they were constructed. The unique architecture and bold design of the Biblioteca Espana in Medellin is one of it’s main impacting factors. It’s not supposed to be hidden, it’s supposed to highlight and call attention to a neighborhood, bringing pride back to it’s people.

    • Sebas

      Of course, you’re allowed to your opinion. I’m simply sharing mine, and some of the thoughts behind the piece.

  • http://www.wickhamfamily.blogspot.com Mariah

    Beautiful & Stunning! All of them. I find it fortuitous that I would discover this post right after I posted about the Salt Lake Library on my own blog!

  • Anthony2816

    You should add the The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, France. Very unusual, in a good way.

    http://www.aviewoncities.com/paris/bibliothequenationale.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblioth%C3%A8que_nationale_de_France

  • http://www.jpsfinephotography.com Jamie P. Sheppard

    I’m so glad to see someone else who loves photographing libraries as I do! I don’t think there are too many of us, and seeing your work is a great boost for my inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

    https://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=84734718009&aid=84903

    • http://www.jpsfinephotography.com Jamie P. Sheppard

      Sorry–meant to say “…seeing THIS work…”

  • http://medellinliving.com Dave

    Cool to see Biblioteca Espana mentioned in Medellin. The black facade sticks out like a sore thumb in a city of green mountains, and red brick buildings, but I suppose there is a meaning behind the design.

  • Gloria

    lexandria in Egypt has the most beautiful library

  • Gloria

    I meant Alexandria in Egypt has the most beautiful Library

  • Diego

    Beautiful collection of pictures and experiences. But Alexandria Library is one that is imposible not to be in whatever list of amazing buildings.

  • http://www.worldscoolestcities.com Kelly

    Wow! Simply breathtaking! I have only been to the Seattle one, and that building is totally amazing. We went on a trip with my Sculpture class in Art School. In addition to the book spiral, there is also a section that is meant to be like the inside of a human heart or something, the walls are all curved and painted deep red. It’s bizarre!
    The children’s section is really cool as well and has some great artwork!
    Would love to visit some of the others!

  • anupriya

    Hey! gr8 wrk..very ‘insightful’..literally & metaphorically!!!! though i was a little diaspponied not 2 see any libraries from the east..like india, China, Japan..etc… We have some AMAZING libraries here as well..full of culture & heritage n gr8 kitsch architecture as well!! :P

    • Sarah

      Any suggestions? I’d love to check out some photos!!!

  • Mikey

    The Prague Library was the most beautiful in my opinion :) :)

  • Jeffrey

    This is incredible! This is like something after my own heart. The most stunning library I have ever been to is the library at the University of Coimbra in Coimbra, Portugal. No picture allowed and it’s roped off to non-students and professors when you walk inside, but the ancient books, the intense and detailed sculpture and the fact that everything seems to be dripping in gold, though its all wooden, is absolutely breathtaking. Great article! Would love to visit that Salt Lake City Library, or have it here in Boston, though the BPL is not bad.

    Thanks!

  • librarian

    “the British Library holds over 150 million items from countries all over the world — 100 million of which are also available digitally”

    Really? I doubt it. Google Books, the largest library digitization project going, has scanned 15 million books. Where does this factoid come from?

    • Sarah

      @librarian – I reached out to the museum for additional information. “Available digitally” means that they’re not all free (only 30,000 are available free via their online gallery), but that a majority of their items available digitally are accessed through a document supply or imaging services (which have a variety of pricing models). As far as the Google Books figure — you’re quite right, a majority of their items available digitally are not books, as some 50mil of these items are said to be journal entries and patents.

  • Jorge Díez

    It’s amazing, Medellín has been a city affected by the violence and the natural disasters, but in 2004 a major, Sergio Fajardo, start a transformation in all the city. This transformation included the Library Parks, like this one, the Library Park Españ-Santo Domingo….You hace to visit this place, the change in the environment of the neighborhood, the people felt proud from their library and shows to the tourists other spaces near, including the metrocable.

    I’m Colombian, and those are the things that you have to know: Beatuiful cities, wonderful lanscapes, excelent places and the nicest people that you can find in the world!…..”Colombia, the only risk is you’ll want to stay here”….

    • Sebas

      epa! bien dicho!

  • Gabriel

    My deepest impressions for such spectacular photos. This is an awesome collection. By the way, I almost did not believe that the “Biblioteca España” situated in Medellín could reach this list. It sure is one of the most important knowledge buildings that could have been built, for the benefits of the poorest people in Medellín.

  • Carlos C.

    Check out Riggs Library at Georgetown University in Washington, DC! An amazing place–kind of reminds you of Harry Potter as you walk in.

  • Erin H.

    Wow, as a University of Toronto alumni I am left wondering, why, oh why, didn’t I spend more time in the Rare Books Library and less time in the soul-sucking Robarts library (fashioned in a brutalist fashion to look like a peacock, or turkey depending who you ask).

    Sarah, your article reminded me that there are a lot of different focuses our travels can take, and also that when we travel we should remember to take advantage of the lesser-known places (like libraries) which can surprise us with their beauty, history and atmosphere.

  • jon

    There are some pictures that would have been really nice had the photographer not used fucking HDR. It’s not fun, please stop destroying nice images like that!

  • http://www.alonsotorres.com Alonso Torres

    Hey!!.. What about the “Biblioteca Vasconcelos” in Mexico city.. That must be in this list!!!

    • Andy

      Of course!! Totally agree with Alonso Torres!! The Vasconselos Library in Mexico City is great!

  • Morgan

    These are all so beautiful! As an extreme english nerd, and just a passionate person about learning, I definately want to read every one of those books in each of those beautiful libaries. I think I might just have to skim though, because I’ll end up dying before I get done with even one library. :)

  • Jacques Legault

    Beautifull photography but you missed Montreal, Quebec. It should be with the best.

  • Gabrielle

    This is a wonderful virtual tour of libraries around the world. What about adding Trinity College Dublin?

  • Stephanie

    I’m so disappointed that the Library of Alexandria, in Egypt, wasn’t on the list! It was the most famous library in antiquity and is stunning today as well!

  • Carlos

    While little house cost Half a million dollars in California, most schools and libraries are forgotten with time.

  • Brian

    I live in San Diego California, where the city council just voted for more funding cuts to libraries which shall result in some branch locations only being open 2 days a week. Such is the sorry state of “culture” in the US. Collective treasures such as parks, libraries, schools, are all on the chopping block. What is never on the chopping block are endless subsidies for big corporations, nor their disproportionate utilization of tax payer funded infrastructure that they can’t be bothered to pay for, since most of the biggest corporations pay next to nothing or a big fat nothing in taxes. But the lunacy never stops in the land of the free to be completely ignorant. Most US citizens are too bloody mesmerized by today’s distraction, to understand that they have been had, and in fact will gleefully defend those that are screwing them. Willful ignorance is very much in fashion these days.

  • Evan

    Um….. what about the Library of Congress, in Washington D.C

  • Anya

    Trinity College Library in Dublin is definitely the best

  • Lesley

    Would have been nice to see the architects’ names and not have to leave the Matador site to search for them…

  • http://twitter.com/emanuelcampos Emanuel Campos

    Beatiful photos! But, you missed the Ateneo Grand Splendid at Buenos Aires, well, it´s not a library but a bookshop instead, but it was a old theater that was restored by the company and become the most beatifull bookshop ever. Check up a few photos from the store: http://bit.ly/lhdZuP. Regards from Emanuel, Brazil. 

  • Aiha

    new alexandria library in egypt?

  • http://www.knok.com/knoleskine/ Anji

    Very nice photos! Sometimes we overlook libraries as a “must see” destination when we travel!

  • Victoria Castro

    Freaking Amazing! I want to go to every one of them.

  • Csg Library-Editor

    Amazing libraries around the world!

  • Travagal

    Wow, very cool post about libraries around the world – something I don’t typically think about when my mind wanders to travel, but I will now!

  • Malena Yv

    would like to go there one day! really posh libraries around d world.

  • Ivy Manalansan C

    Absolutely amazing! To think that most of these libraries are public libraries!

  • Anonymous

    Why is it that the top “libraries” have a lot of space and very few books? I agree that you need a lot of room to read the books, but when you have 3 stories of air vacant of books, you need to rethink your library.

  • Silla Fine Antiques

    Amazing! The Columbia one is especially interesting.

  • Britto Britto

    now we use the internet, takes up less room ;).

  • Denise Milani vs Pamela Anderson
  • Manuel Valadas Preto

    Someone already mentioned, but I repeat: the “Biblioteca Joanina” from Coimbra University is among the most amazing in the world: http://bibliotecajoanina.uc.pt/o_edificio/piso_nobre.

    • Mei Hwa

      Yes I have seen Coimbra University’s Library, absolutely amazing, very ornate and gold everywhere. Should be the best oldest library in the world

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri Photography

    great pictures! this will definitely make you want to sit and read books. Brotherton library at the University of Leeds would be an awesome addition to the list!

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  • The Drifters Blog

    Beautiful architecture. I LOVE spending hours in a library. These look like some great places to visit.

  • http://www.cheapflightstrip.blogspot.in/ cheap flights Trip

    Amazing pictures! Thanks for sharing them! really wonderful pictures are really beautiful…… all the above are manmade features…….just wondering if its possible to include the natural ones as well

  • BakoymaTravels

    Such amazing architecture. And to know they hold a wealth of knowledge and culture makes them even more beautiful. Thanks for sharing this list, and the fantastic pictures!

These architectural oddities range from skyscrapers to treehouses.
Cloud varieties go way beyond those we learn about in elementary school.
Lighthouses are monuments to our long-lived relationship to the oceans.
The bamboo-clad abstraction of a farmhouse is a modern addition to the rural landscape.
Some buildings and features are so well known they have become icons of place.
These photos capture the way things look after people leave.
More sweet shots of spectacular bridges from around the world.
Some cool shots of 17 of the the longest, tallest, most artful bridges on the planet.
23 of the weirdest, coolest, and most flannel-friendly houses built into nature.
Strap on your GoPro and come back with some amazingly clear imagery.