Libraries have existed in all shapes and sizes since human beings attempted to organize scripts. This means they have a history of thousands of years.
The earlier libraries emerged in Sumer, the earliest civilization of Mesopotamia, around 2600 B.C. It took a while before the first major public libraries emerged in Europe.
The first recorded library in classical Greece was established in the 5th century B.C. In Roman times, they were often incorporated into entertainment facilities such as bathhouses.
The most significant library in the Ancient World was the Library of Alexandria, followed by the library in Constantinople.
Today, they are often amazing landmarks that incorporate modern architecture. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most beautiful libraries on the planet.
1. Bibliotheca Alexandrina – Egypt
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is the modern version of the largest library of the Ancient World. It’s located in a magnificent location on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and was constructed to commemorate the ancient building that was located in the same city.
The plans to build this structure were made in 1974 but the first stone of this huge complex wasn’t laid until 1995, over 2 decades later, and completed in 2002. The price tag of $220 million was a hefty one but the result is one of the most stunning library buildings that you’ll ever come across.
2. Seattle Central Library – United States
The Seattle Central Library is the main library building in the Seattle metropolitan area and is located in the downtown area of the city. It’s not the tallest building in the area but definitely one of the most striking landmarks in Seattle because of its remarkable Deconstructivist architecture.
The library was constructed between 2002 and 2004 and is the 4th library building that serves as the Central Library in the city. It was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and American architect Joshua Prince-Ramus and they did a pretty good job.
3. Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart – Germany
The Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart is the main library in the German city of Stuttgart, the capital and largest city in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The library moved here from its former location the Wilhelmspalais in 2011 and this modern structure is a sheer contrast to its former home.
The exterior of the building doesn’t look all that special because it’s pretty much a cube that consists of 9 floors. The interior, however, highlights the structural elements such as the precast concrete framework which allows for an amazing spatial arrangement.
4. Abbey Library of Saint Gall – Switzerland
The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is part of the Abbey of Saint Gall, an amazing medieval structure that was founded by Saint Othmar in the 8th century. Most of the abbey was destroyed by fire in the late 10th century but the core structure of the library remained intact.
The current interior of the library building was constructed between 1758 and 1767 and is a prime example of Rococo architecture. This style is defined by curves and extravagant ornamentation, something that can be seen on the library’s ceiling. The Abbey of Saint Gall and its library are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
5. Geisel Library – United States
The Geisel Library is the main library building of the University of California, San Diego, and can easily be described as one of the most amazing landmarks in San Diego. It was named after Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known by his penname as an author of children’s literature Dr. Seuss.
The building was constructed between 1968 and 1970 but was completely renovated in 1993. The building’s design is a remarkable blend of Futurism and Brutalist architecture and was meant to resemble hands that are holding up stacks of books.
6. Library of Parliament – Canada
The Library of Parliament is part of the large Centre Block building that is the home of the parliament of Canada in Ottowa. It stands at the rear of the building which is situated on top of Parliament Hill and overlooks the Ottowa River in the downtown area of the city.
It was constructed in 1876 and remarkably survived the 1916 fire that destroyed just about all other parts of the Centre Block. Despite this notion, this historic building has been renovated several times throughout its history. The interior was inspired by the reading room of the British Museum in London.
7. Library of Saint Mark – Italy
The Library of Saint Mark or Biblioteca Marciana is one of the countless amazing buildings in Venice, the fascinating lagoon city in the northeastern part of Italy. The original library in Venice was established in 1468 and it moved to its current building after it was completed between 1537 and 1588.
It’s one of the greatest examples of Venetian Renaissance architecture and one of the oldest public libraries in Italy, although it’s mostly considered to be a museum today. The remarkably long façade of the building faces the Doge’s Palace in the heart of the city.
8. State Library Victoria – Australia
State Library Victoria is the main library building in Melbourne, the capital and largest city of the Australian state of Victoria. The library was established in 1854 which makes it by far the oldest library in Australia and one of the first free libraries in the world.
That’s one of the main reasons why this amazing building in Melbourne is located in the heart of the central business district of the city. The Neoclassical building was designed by Cornish architect Joseph Reed (1823-1890), the man who also designed the Melbourne Town Hall, and the Royal Exhibition Building.
9. Tianjin Binhai Library – China
Tianjin Binhai Library is an incredible library in Tianjin, a large metropolis in the northern part of China. It’s nicknamed “The Eye” because of the sphere that is located inside which appears to be an iris when seen in the nearby park through an opening.
The interior of the building features a large number of terraced shelves that are able to hold up to 1.2 million books. These are spaced out from the ground floor all the way up to the ceiling, a remarkable sight to behold, that’s for sure.
10. George Peabody Library – United States
The George Peabody Library is the main library building of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. This huge library is located in the heart of the city, just northeast of the Walters Art Museum and just southeast of the Washington Monument.
The building was named in honor of George Peabody (1795–1869), the man who sponsored the construction of the building just before the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861-1865). The library was eventually opened in 1878 and its interior is sometimes referred to as the most beautiful library building in the world.