Wiblingen Abbey, Germany
Just over an hour’s drive from Stuttgart, this huge library inside an 18th Century Benedictine abbey is every bit as beautiful as you’d imagine. Widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Rococo architecture in the world, the colour and detail in the surroundings have to be seen to be believed. Frescos, marble statues and of course rows and rows of books make this an absolute must for bibliophiles.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Mexico
Mexico City’s ‘Megabiblioteca’ is one of the most unique libraries you’ll ever visit, more in common with Phillip K Dick than Charles Dickens. The books float in a futuristic construction above the main lobby with reading areas lining the perimeters. It’s impossible not to be taken back by the layered glass walkways which snake around the interior like roots of a plant, an apt metaphor for a building situated in the midst of a lush botanical garden.
Liyuan Library, China
You could easily drive past Li Xiaodong’s award winning library without ever knowing it was there. Designed with a wooden exterior to blend into its natural surroundings, the single storey building has become an unprecedented success, attracting tourism and global interest to its small host village, just over two hours drive from Beijing. The books are housed in timber frames with low level seating areas for reading, all surrounded by beautiful forestry, making for what has to be the most calming experience you could ever have in a public building.
The Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen
Known as the Black Diamond for its distinctive exterior, the national library of Denmark is the largest and most aesthetically impressive of its kind throughout the Nordic nations. You’ll find classics from Hans Christian Anderson and notes from renowned philosopher Søren Kierkegaard alongside exhibitions focusing on contemporary photography, with a concert hall housed in the same building.
George Peabody Library, Maryland, USA
“A cathedral of books” is how this magnificent building has been described – and in the presence of a stunning 61ft atrium punctuated by cast iron balconies, it’s hard to argue. Local philanthropist George Peabody opened the library in 1878 and the collection has now grown to over 300,000 books, including a large amount on British history. Well worth the trip for anybody wanting to experience first hand the majesty of 19th Century architecture.
Stuttgart City Library, Stuttgart
In 2011 the German city of Stuttgart opened the doors to its new library and media centre, based loosely on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Designed by Yi Architects, the cavernous white cube uses levels and staircases as design features, making the overall result reminiscent of an MC Escher drawing. A perfect example of how public libraries can remain forward thinking hubs of creativity, even in the digital age.
Words by Tom Armstrong