Public libraries have come a long way from the historic cloisters of yore. Here are four cutting-edge examples that every traveling bibliophile should know about.
GERMANY: Stuttgart City Library
Few cities choose a library to be their cultural center, but Stuttgart’s raises the question of why there aren’t more. The nine-story all-white cube by architect Eun Young Yi serves as a meeting place as much as a repository of books, with a café, rooftop terrace, and “Library for Insomniacs” section kept open all night long (stuttgart.de).
TAIWAN: Beitou Branch, Taipei Public Library
This low-rise oasis in the middle of Taipei has won awards for its green architecture since it debuted in 2006. Roof- top gardens capture rainwater and solar energy to cycle through the rest of the structure, where wood-paneled reading rooms are cooled by natural ventilation (taipei.gov.tw).
ENGLAND: Library of Birmingham
The thousands of metal rings covering this year-old building are an ultramodern nod to Birmingham’s historic jewelry quarter. Along with hosting speakers like Malala Yousafzai, the library houses the Shakespeare Memorial Room, created for the city’s old central library in 1882 and reassembled here in a golden rooftop rotunda (libraryofbirmingham.com).
EGYPT: Bibliotheca Alexandrina
This literary complex is Alexandria’s first library since the last was destroyed nearly 1,600 ago, with four museums, a planetarium, and academic research facilities galore. Letters from more than 100 different languages are etched into its circular granite facade, which tilts toward the shores of the Mediterranean (bibalex.org).
This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Stack Stars”)