There will always be something magical about the printed word. Even as iPads and e-readers become the norm, nothing will ever compete with a good old-fashioned book. Beyond the shrinking book store franchises and “new media” libraries, there are special places around the world that celebrate the mystique of books in print. Join us to explore 10 amazing book stores and libraries around the world that make reading a truly artful experience.
Restored Cathedral Book Store
Instead of allowing this old Gothic cathedral to fall into disrepair, it was purchased by a book seller and restored to its original glory. The Cathedral Book Store of Maastricht, The Netherlands might be the world’s most beautiful book store, featuring the breathtaking contrast of contemporary design with classical architecture. The walls, arches and cathedral ceiling of the original building were maintained, while the new interior bookstore rises from its center. Guests can peruse their favorite titles on three levels of book shelves and then relax in the public reading rooms throughout. It is a true beauty, a book store that rests at the top of our own bucket list.
Restored Cathedral Book Store | Gallery
Stuttgart City Library
The city of Stuttgart, Germany recently completed work on a marvel of architecture, the Stuttgart City Library. In its central core, the library features a large atrium with walls of books, open balconies and cascading staircases. Every inch of the atrium is neutral and white, allowing the books and visitors to provide the color. This central chamber is reminiscent of a classic MC Escher painting, where staircases and varied levels appear to cross into one another mathematically. Inside and out, this library is an inspiring, peaceful and enchanting place to fall in love with a good book.
Stuttgart City Library Gallery
Book Mountain Library
Back to The Netherlands from Stuttgart, Germany, a mountain of books has been built in the city of Spijkenisse. The Book Mountain library features stacked levels of books that have been built inside of a large glass pyramid. Visitors can grab a book, a cup of coffee and a bite to eat and are welcomed to relax on the top level patio for hours on end. Views of nearby housing complexes and the rest of the local skyline can be taken in slowly from this vantage point. This is a literary mountain that is certainly worth climbing.
Book Mountain by MVRDV Gallery
Tama Art University Library
An impressive library rises in the city of Tokyo in a fashion that feels very mid-century modern. The Tama Art University Library by Toyo Ito features arching concrete pillars above winding shelves of countless books. These arches, and the convex sections that stand below them, are the central characteristic of its design. The result feels gothic, contemporary and animated all at once, a great combination for the story books it houses.
Tama Art University Library Gallery
Renovated Theater Book Store in Buenos Aires
An historic theater in Buenos Aires is now one of the city’s most exciting book stores, the El Ateneo Grand Splendid. While the ‘teatro gran splendid’ no longer houses performances of Argentina’s national dance, the tango, it is now home to thousands of books stacked along three levels of the old theater. The character of the original architecture remains– the columns, moldings and wall art accents wrap around the old seating section while the flowing red theater curtains still hang at stage left and right. It is a marvelous book store, one that maintains a strong sense of Argentina’s history while still selling culture, book-by-book.
Renovated Theater Book Store Gallery
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
From a distance, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library looks like a modernist Fort Knox. Its cubic “windows” are made of marble, not glass, and appears obvious that this building is storing something very important. After entering at the ground level, visitors can climb the stairs into an open atrium with a glass-sealed six-story book shelf at its center. If you’re invited in, you can peruse the shelves of books whose individual ages span centuries, originating from some of the most rare locations and authors throughout the world. This building was designed to protect these books, but its beauty is undeniable. If you’re one of the lucky few to have a pass to this library, be sure to take a moment to appreciate the gravity of this collection.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Gallery
Livraria da Vila – Brazil
The largest city of South America is home to one of Brazil’s most celebrated architecture firms and this literary masterwork. The Livraria da Vila by Isay Weinfeld Arquitecto is one of the finest libraries in Sao Paolo and the world beyond. The doors of Livraria da Vila are bookshelves themselves, twisting open on a central axis to allow guests into the building. The interior features various openings between the upper floor and the ground level that are lined with books, yielding a labyrinth of a library for readers to eagerly get lost within. The exterior facade is a stylish example of Brazilian modernism, one that makes this storefront a true beauty even from a distance away.
Livraria da Vila Gallery
Liyuan Library by Li Xiaodong Atelier
In a rural village outside of Beijing, China, a small library hides amongst the trees in a serene setting. The Liyuan Library is wrapped in reclaimed branches that provide a natural fascia, while varied windows bring ambient light into the warm interior. Indoors, three levels of books and reading spaces are available for the occasional guest. Perhaps most impressive is the open design that allows in light from nearly every direction. All four walls and the ceiling feature glass panes that are hidden within the branch texture outside, filling the library with light.
Liyuan Library Gallery
A47 Mobile Library by Productora
Why go to the library when it can come to you? The A47 Mobile Library by Productora is a library on wheels that travels around Mexico City bringing books to the masses. While food trucks and pop-up shops were over the last five years, perhaps this mobile library is carrying the next mobile torch? Just keep your eye on the late fees, as this is one library that can actually track you down for late payments.
A47 Mobile Library | Gallery
University of Aberdeen Library
One of the oldest English-language universities is now home to a massive new 15,500 square foot library. The new University of Aberdeen Library is designed to serve 14,000 students with 1,200 reading spaces and collections of books both modern and antique. Its design is its most notable trait, taking on a wild contemporary structure designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects. Each floor opens up to a central atrium with curves that progress at an upward angle to create visual variation. In total, it is an impressive work of architecture that serves both the books it houses and the students it accommodates.
University of Aberdeen Library | Gallery
– – – – – – – – – – –
Is there a book store or library in your city that should be included in this list? Be sure to share it in the comments or tweet it to us @thecoolist. For now, don’t miss these other TheCoolist features on some of the amazing places and things that make this world special: