Library Architecture + Design by Manuela Roth

I didn’t know what to expect when I put in an online request for this book from my library. I’m taking a seminar on the history of library architecture this fall and in true nerd fashion decided to look at a few books on the subject prior to the first class. All of the pictures below are from the book to give you an idea of the wide variety of architecture included. I’ve also provided links to most of the libraries I mention or to architectural sites about the library if you’d like to check them out in more detail.

This is a hefty coffee table book that features exterior and interior color photographs and floor plans of 69 libraries from around the world. All of the featured libraries were completed or renovated within the last decade. A few libraries were represented by conceptual drawings because they were under construction at the time the book was published. A few of these include the public library nicknamed Book Mountain in Spijkenisse, The Netherlands and the Kazakhstan National Library in Astana.

Kazakhstan National Library

Some of the libraries are completely new structures and others are renovations and/or additions to existing buildings. I think these are the most interesting. While there is a need to harmonize new technology within traditionally book dominated library interiors and therefore a trend to do so, there seems to be no trend at all to harmonize new additions with older structures. Indeed, disharmony seems to be in fashion.

A mild example of this dissonance is The Bloor/Gladstone Branch Library in Toronto, Canada. The picture shows the old brick library and its new glass addition standing proudly side-by-side like two siblings that have absolutely nothing in common, but are happy to be members of the same family. They’re different in material, but similar enough in that they are big, boxy, somewhat imposing buildings. 

Other new library additions look radically different from their older siblings and in some cases look like the first born of a completely new species of building. Libraries fitting this pattern include the Grosuplje Library in Slovenia, the Nembro Library in Italy, and the Luckenwalde Library in Germany. 

Luckenwalde Library

The Luckenwalde library is a decommissioned railroad station that’s been renovated into a library. Manuela Roth had this to say about the shiny, gold addition that houses the children & youth spaces:

“The listed historic building received a cabinet like annex spatially tilted on two axes, locating the former train station in a new urban context. The striking facade design with the surface of shimmering gold scales underscores this urban developmental” tone (293).

The main library in Graz, Austria is one of my favorites because I’m a fan of older architecture. It’s housed within a former residential and office building called the Zanklhof which was built in 1908. Click here to go to the library’s website and see some interior pictures. I like how they’ve maintained the traditional exterior facade and perhaps some of highlights of the original interior, but have completely redesigned the interior to fit the needs of the library and the comfort of the patrons.


Some libraries, such as the Bucerius Law School Library in Hamburg, Germany, are photographed from above so you can see them within their surrounding landscape. The Bucerius is the building below that looks a bit like a box of crayons to me. Can you make it out?

Bucerius Law School Library

There’s even a private library featured. The Scholar’s Library in Olive Bridge, NY is the library of Professor Carol Gluck. It’s a Platonic cube. The first floor contains stacks and the second floor is workspace. 

The Scholar’s Library
The Scholar’s Library floor plan.

The prize for the most unusual looking library goes to the Espana Library in Medellin, Colombia which looks like three huge rocks on a hill. Please click here to seem some great pictures of this unique structure as well as written descriptions and floor plans. 

Overall, this is a fascinating and at times awe-inspiring book to look through if you’re interested in library architectural trends. Manuela Roth must have had a challenging but exciting time gathering this information and putting it all together.

Library Architecture + Design
Manuela Roth
Braun, November 2010
Source: the library

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