Book Creak I
Libraries are like time capsules built to preserve our past, present and future.
The earliest known “library” can be traced to 2,000 BC when scrolls of papyrus were stored for future safekeeping. Eventually the monarchs of Europe built majestic structures to show off their riches and intellectual achievements with access granted only to the elite to insure that a majority of their people remained illiterate.
Many American libraries were built based on European designs, but thankfully our libraries did not discriminate and were always open to the public.
While living on Capitol Hill a favorite escape was the Library of Congress which was based on Italian Renaissance design. Whenever I visited I always felt like I was apart of history while sitting in the Thomas Jefferson reading room.
When I first studied interior design I remember walking through Bates Hall in Boston’s Copley Library when it dawned on me how beautiful the library was and I spent a rainy Saturday learning about it’s history and design. The Hall features a barrel-arched ceiling with half domes on each end, oak bookcases and limestone balconies.
There are some truly beautiful libraries around the world–from baroque to beaux arts– and I’m certain some of my favorites will inspire you too.
In Austria, the floor of the Benedictine Abbey was designed with 7,500 diamond-shaped marble tiles and the ceilings and embrasures are painted with frescoes off-setting the beautiful white bookcases trimmed in gold leaf.
A 19th century research library for John Hopkin’s University, The Peabody, often referred to as the “cathedral of books” features a neo-Grec interior with an atrium that soars 61 feet to a skylight that looks down on five tiers of cast iron balconies with gold scalloped columns.
The British Library is housed in the British Museum Great Court and features a circular reading room with a domed ceiling made of blue and gold paper maché.
In Canada’s Parliament, the Library of Parliament features gothic revival architecture with arched ceilings and a statue of a young Queen Victoria. The floors are designed with cherry, oak and walnut and the wood paneling is carved with flowers, masks and mythical creatures.
The famous 14,000-square-feet Rose Reading Room in the New York Public Library is a Beaux Arts beauty designed by architects Carrere and Hastings. The 52-feet ceilings are frescoed in the Renaissance-style and the library is listed as one of America’s most treasured historical landmarks.
The Vatican Library is the library of invisible books because all books and manuscripts are hidden from plain sight. In fact, the books are kept in elaborately designed, but locked bookcases only made available to registered researchers and teachers. The ceiling and wall frescoes and the Vatican Library’s overall design are Italian Renaissance.
France’s national library The Bibliothéque Nationale houses everything ever published in France. The four 24-story buildings showcase a sleek, open-air design with modern wood accents and furnishings.
Located in Venice’s St. Mark’s Square, the Sansovino is designed in the Doric style with an intricate circular black and white marble floor and gold leaf wood accents.
The library for Milan’s Nuova Accademia is the Biblioteca di Bella Arti which showcases modern, minimal design with clean-lined furnishings paired with elaborate crystal chandeliers for a touch of opulence.
A steel and glass Egyptian marvel built on the Mediterranean Sea, Library of Alexandria was rebuilt to house a convention center, planetarium, art galleries and cultural museums.
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