TOP 10 libraries of 2013




designboom’s TOP 10 libraries of 2013 includes a diverse range of projects, featuring works from renowned offices alongside young and emerging practices. even at a time of economic struggle, it has been encouraging to see investment in a number of schemes designed to enliven and enrich our communities. the role of the library continues to evolve, with new designs housing a range of multi-media activities and communal areas alongside more traditional programs.





national library of sejong city by S.A.M.O.O.


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
photo by young chae park




the ‘national library of sejong city’ by S.A.M.O.O. architects & engineers is the first branch facility of the national library of korea, built in the country’s multifunctional administrative municipality. the architecture’s swooping roof references the motif of a book page turned over, which speaks of the building’s functions – a place where analogue and digital formats of information converge.






library of birmingham by mecanoo


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
image © christian richters




the new ‘library of birmingham’ by dutch office mecanoo opened earlier this year, reportedly the biggest building of its type in europe. the architecture enlivens a previously underused square, the largest in the metropolitan city. expanses of glazing are met with a varied mesh of circular metal filigree, the shapes of which draw from the industrial region’s artisan tradition.






elsa morante public library by DAP studio


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
photo © luigi filetici
image courtesy of DAP studio




adding a perforated aluminum tower to a former chapel, italian architects DAP studio have converted the historic building into the ‘elsa morante’ public library. located in the italian town of lonate ceppino, a strong dialogue between the two volumes is created – the narrow profile of the addition respectfully slopes away from the original building’s roof pitches, giving them space to stand on their own.






datong library by preston scott cohen


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
image © preston scott cohen




organized by a four-storey helical ramp lined with bookshelves and study carrels, preston scott cohen‘s design for the ‘datong library’ in china seeks to mediate the tension between the two major roles of a central library using dynamic spaces and progressive circulation. a main library serves as both a community center and an intellectual archive for individual study. these two programs are resolved with a garden courtyard around which classrooms, a gallery, informal meeting rooms and an auditorium are arrayed.






scholar’s library by GLUCK+


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
photo © paul warchol




a simple structure of platonic proportions delineates this tranquil retreat, ‘scholar’s library’, designed by new york firm GLUCK+, is located in the catskill mountains near the firm’s tower house. the small getaway is organized by two programs – the first floor library literally and figuratively supports the second floor study and research space.






new baghdad library by AMBS architects


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
image courtesy of AMBS architects




british-iraqi firm AMBS architects has just shared with us their design for the new baghdad library- the first public library to be constructed in the city since the 1970s. the revitalizing structure will boast the largest reading room in the world, in part due to a steel cable mesh building system that will allow a 80 meter across, single-span volume. the central architectural gesture is a double curved roof designed specifically to allow ample natural light to pervade the space through a network of skylights.






philologische bibliothek by norman foster


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
image © felix loechner




the elliptical shape of  norman foster’s ‘philologische bibliothek’, the latest project of the freie universitat in berlin, is enhanced by an elegantly gridded steel canopy checkered with panels of varying transparencies that illuminate the interior with a bright evenly diffused glow of natural light.






seinajoki city library expansion by JKMM architects


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
image © tuomas uusheimo
all images courtesy of JKMM architects




earlier this year, finnish studio JKMM architects completed a solution for the expansion of the ‘seinajoki city library’ an extension of alvar aalto’s civic center, which runs the delicate line between the preservation of history and the creation of contemporary identity. the architects focused primarily on two challenges: the physical and symbolic connection with the old library, and the preparation of spaces for current and future use.






biblioteca vasconcelos by TAX arquitectura | alberto kalach


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
image courtesy of TAX arquitectura | alberto kalach




in the tightly knit urban fabric of mexico city, TAX arquitectura | alberto kalach designed the biblioteca jose vasconcelos amongst a luscious botanical garden. the scheme manifests the architect’s desire to seize every opportunity to create green space in the polluted, aggressively built context. these two typologies are not so divergent, as the library houses human knowledge, and the garden is planted with a rich sample of local flora.






helsinki university main library by anttinen oiva architects


TOP 10 libraries of 2013
photo by tuomas uusheimo
image courtesy of anttinen oiva architects




‘helsinki university main library’, the largest academic library in finland, has been completed this year by anttinen oiva architects. the brief required a building to be constructed which, as well as catering for the school’s students and staff, reached out to the broader public. the scheme, located in the city center, seeks to cater for a new age of digital information, in addition to providing more conventional services.