4 Beautiful New Public Libraries to See Around the World

From the Canadian prairies to the shores of the Persian Gulf, these new public libraries are worth a visit for their architecture alone. 

The sky-lighted atrium in Alberta’s Calgary Central Library.

1. Calgary Central Library, Canada
Canada’s fourth-largest metropolitan area has been given a civic boost, thanks to the November debut of a landmark by acclaimed American-Norwegian studio Snøhetta and design specialists Dialog. The curving, sharp-edged structure soars over a light rail line, its sleek white exterior adorned with cut-out hexagonal patterns suggestive of snowflakes and open books. Bibliophiles will find the largely timber-clad interiors warm and welcoming, with room for 450,000 titles and spaces organized on a spectrum of “fun” to “serious.” 

More information here.

A balcony at Turanga, the central library in Christchurch. Photo: Adam Mørk

2. Turanga, New Zealand
Danish architecture firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen teamed up with local company Architectus to design this Christchurch library as the latest symbol of the city’s post-quake rebirth. The building’s golden aluminum facade recalls the triangular blades of native harakeke flax and the topography of the nearby Port Hills, while roof terraces point toward significant Maori sites. On the ground floor, a seven-meter touchscreen wall offers insights into local history; the upper stories hold 180,000 books, a 200-seat community hall, and two studios for music and video production.

More information here.

The exterior of Aalst’s Utopia library. © Delfino Sisto Legnani e Marco Cappelletti

3. Utopia, Belgium
The medieval Flemish city of Aalst—where Thomas More’s Utopia was first published in 1516—now hosts a unique cultural institution that subtly balances old and new. Rotterdam-based firm Kaan Architecten has paired a 19th-century red-brick school building with a sympathetic extension faced in longer bricks made from local clay, turning the new structure to create three public squares. Inside, the original brickwork plays off exposed concrete staircases and floors, and near full-height oak bookshelves appear to support the library itself.

More information here.

Inside OMA’s Qatar National Library. Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti

4. Qatar National Library, Qatar
This diamond-shaped monolith by global design heavyweights OMA welcomed its first visitors last April. Corrugated glass walls and a reflective aluminum ceiling filter and diffuse the bright desert sun to create optimal light for reading, and its vast open-plan interior—measuring in at 42,000 square meters—features tiers of marble bookcases arranged around a central space. Styled as an archaeological dig, a sunken heritage section in travertine marble contains some of Qatar’s most important texts and manuscripts on Arab-Islamic civilization.

More information here.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2019 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“By The Books”).

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