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Houses for Books: Five Architecturally Impressive Libraries

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So what if the publishing industry is going down in flames? Until each and every book is cataloged on the internet for consumption on a Kindle we're going to need libraries, so they might as well look good. Back in 1960, Yale University sought to add some visual interest to their rare book collection with a stunning building designed by Gordon Bunshaft. The Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill partner whipped up what might sound like a miserable structure: a windowless monstrosity faced entirely in stone. Burnshaft's design incorporated marble sliced so thin that it allows filtered light into the interior of the building, while protecting the stacks from harmful ultraviolet radiation. A brilliant and beautiful solution that helped bring the rare books out from the depths of the basement.

? Midcentury master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe stuck to his perpendicular guns with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. Constructed of steel, brick, and glass, the building cost $18M to construct back in 1968—that's $112M in today's dollars. While hardly a thrifty solution, the building measures 400,000 square feet, providing enough space for the library system's offices. The linear masterpiece was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

? Libraries get a whole lot less conventional overseas. This gold addition to an existing library in Luckenwalde, Germany strikes a seriously glamorous tone. Even if it looks like it is a universe away from the surrounding traditional architecture, at least it makes the library look cooler than it's used to. The design was helmed by FF Architekten.

? The Tama Art University Library in Tokyo, Japan is a wonderland of arches, designed by Toyo Ito. Gone are the usual tall stacks stuffed with books—this is an art university after all—replaced by airy spaces that look like they'd make spending study time in the library far more tolerable.

? Fancy new libraries seem to be going up in Europe at lightning pace. This one, in Almere, Holland, won the 2010 Lensvelt Prize for the firm Concrete. Compared to the others on this list it looks a lot like a Barnes and Noble, but a little funky lighting and some colors go a long way to touch up the stacks.
· About the Library Building [Yale]
· The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library History [official site]
· Public Library Luckenwalde [A212]
· Tama Art University Library [Wayfaring]
· LAI 2011 [official site]