The ingeniously simple concept for the library at Tokyo’s Musashino Art University speaks volumes: it’s made entirely of wood bookshelves, with a glass exterior.
Inside, architect Sou Fujimoto’s spiral-shaped design naturally spurs the visitor onward and features light-filled, comfortable corners for reading and easy access to volumes. It’s a reminder that even in the digital age, libraries can be inviting public spaces—and that their beauty extends beyond the gilded, frescoed libraries of old.
In Vancouver, architect Moshe Safdie’s Central Library plays with tradition, rising like a modern-day Colosseum. Bridge walkways connect to study areas from a skylit concourse filled with shops and cafés.
Libraries often act as such cultural gathering places, whether enshrining masterpieces or hosting present-day events. Visitors turn up at the museum-like Marciana Library in Venice to admire works by Renaissance artists like Titian and Tintoretto. In Stuttgart, Germany, meanwhile, the library’s exterior lights up by night, and you can join locals for readings in the mod all-white interior or for drinks on the roof terrace.
If you prefer your library to look like something out of Harry Potter, set your sights on the medieval reading room at Oxford University’s Bodleian library. Kings and Nobel Prize winners have studied beneath its intricate wood-paneled ceiling. The collection includes beautiful rare maps, a Shakespeare First Folio, and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible.
Read on for more libraries that are beautiful inside and out.