When we took a look at some smart looking libraries last week, commenters chimed in with some stunners we had missed. The Phillips Exeter Library by Louis Kahn (above) garnered multiple mentions. The largest secondary school library in the world, the structure was built in 1971 with the sky-lit atrium garnering rave reviews. The open design was partially facilitated by stashing the bulky air conditioning units in the dining hall next door and running ductwork underground. That left the roof free for the clerestory windows that light the atrium. Wrapped in brick to match the Georgian-style campus, the form of the exterior might have more to do with the Philadelphia factory buildings of Kahn's youth than a rural New Hampshire prep school.
? Rem Koolhaas had his own ideas about the atrium for the design of Seattle Central Library. The 11-story building, built in 2004, is full of windows, literally. Every exterior surface is comprised of a steel and glass mesh that allows the maximum amount of light into this hulking structure. So much for the dark and stuffy libraries of old.
? Also in the Pacific Northwest, the Mount Angel Abbey Library in St. Benedict, Ore. was designed by Finnish master Alvar Aalto. Completed a year before the Exeter library—1970—this beige brick building might not look like much from the outside, but the interior is a swooping joy, with furniture also designed by Aalto.Lead photo: Candida Hofer/Arch Digest
? Reaching back to the roots of modernism, one can find some impressive examples of the library. The Scandinavians seem to have had the "clean lines" thing down for a while. The Oslo Public Library, completed in 1933, matches an awesome colonnade atrium with a large scale mural for visual interest.
? Dating from 1860, the Peabody Library in Baltimore, Md. might be one of the grandest libraries built in the USA. Columns bordered by detailed wrought iron railings and ornate moldings surrounding the stacks. Old-world design at its best, courtesy of architect Edmund G. Lind. The Peabody Institute's first provost, Dr. Nathaniel H. Morison, called the library a "cathedral for books."
· Houses for Books: Five Architecturally Impressive Libraries [Curbed National]