The library of yore…and I mean way back when…used to be a stately building that imposed a somber mood on the people who chose to  enter it’s doors. Libraries were strictly

intellectual dwellings, where speaking was verboten and  proper decorum was the order.  Well, the modern world has finally caught up with the library, and now you will find  long overdue, fabulous architectural creations that speak of a kinder, softer experience to be had by one and all.

Here are three modern libraries situated in different areas of the world that exemplify architecture at it’s best and the integration of the needs of the local community into their design concepts.




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Designed by the Chinese architecture firm Li Xiaodong Atelier,  the Liyuan Library is a minimalistic building located outside of Beijing in a small village called Huariou. The library is set outside of the  main part of the village in a beautiful natural setting and the architecture is designed to complement the setting,  seeking to incorporate a contemplative environment in which one might get lost in reading and researching.


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The architect used materials that reflected the location, adhering branches that the residents usually collect to make stove fires in their homes to the outside of a totally glass structure.  The branches provide an unusual exterior to the building and also permit daylight to sneak into the building.


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The inside is a mixture of different  wooden levels, used to separate the various sections of the library, where people are encouraged to sit wherever, without any sense of formality.


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The architect, Li Xiaodong, sought to add the appreciation of  the natural beauty of the area into the reading experience and was completely successful with this concept.  Beautiful concept…beautiful building.








Segue to Norway, a library designed by the team of Helen & Hard and their extremely exciting  concept for the Vennesla Library.  The building’s design centers around huge wooden ridges that change shape as they move throughout the structure.  This allows for large public areas and more intimate areas as the design requires.


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The building is located in the center of the town and is an extension of a community center  and learning center. Formally known as a library and cultural center, it functions as a main destination for the residents of Vennesla.


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The outside of the building also possess a ribbed cage facade and a striking roof shape that makes it stand out as a focal point in the main town square. I love the concept of modern architecture juxtaposed against more traditional buildings…so out there and in your face, but as it should be in today’s fast paced world where information and ideas are shared instantly.


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Once again, the architects have provided casual reading spaces where individuals and families can experience the library in an informal manner. Forget about the concept of sitting in straight back chairs at hard wooden desks. The message is sit back and relax and read!


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Undoubtedly, this is a distinct building, redefining the concept of what a library should look like and how it should function for the community.





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Last , but not least, is the fantastic complex in Medellín, Colombia, known as the Parque Biblioteca España, and designed by the renown architect Giancarlo Mazzanti.  The library is situated on the top of a hill and stands out quite distinctly against the surrounding buildings like three huge rocks.


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Part of a conscientious plan by the city to improve the poorer neighborhoods, it was constructed in the barrio of Santo Domingo Savio, one with a long history  of violence…you do, of course, remember that Medellín is infamous for it’s connection to the drug cartels of Colombia. The concept behind these buildings was to bring beautiful architecture and park areas to the worst neighborhoods in hopes of affecting the quality of life of the inhabitants in a positive way.


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Along with the Biblioteca came the city’s transportation system, which in this cas is a tram that climbs up the hill to where the library is located.  The tram travels over the numerous shanty towns that exist in Santo Doming Savio on it’s way to the Parque Biblioteca España but, most significantly,  provides public transportation for the people of the barrio who primarily work in the center of Medellín.


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The Parque Biblioteca España functions not only as a library, but contains an auditorium, a day care center and an art gallery and is surrounded by a park area that is opened to the public. The building also provides free internet access for the people using the facilities.


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The results have been amazing, and the building now stands as a beacon for how investing in a community can effect great changes in the behavior and good will of the people living there. Community meetings are held here regularly, and the children in the neighborhood are provided with a local facility that provides not only care for them  but easy access to the the knowledge of the world.


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What a fascinating concept…what stunning architecture…what a great story!



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Ciao, ciao ’til next time!