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    Different Looks for Books

    by Michael J. Crosbie and Merrill Elam, FAIA

    Our historically romantic notion of the library is that of mellow book-lined rooms creating discrete places for reading, browsing, and study: the book defining the architecture. Such a mental image is valid for good reason. The book defining the space of architecture has a long history.

    In medieval monastic libraries, book-lined cabinets or cells provided individual study spaces within greater structures. The 1475 painting, "St. Jerome in his Study" by Antonello da Messina, illustrates this beautifully. In baroque monastic libraries, sensuous walls and piers of books created fluid spaces with the carefully controlled natural light to dramatic effect.

    In Paris, at the Bibliothèque Saint-Geneviève of 1850 and the Bibliothèque Nationale of 1868, both by Henri Labrouste and both highly innovative in their use of light and application of structure, the walls are multitiered rows of books. As late as 1928, Gunnar Asplund was lining the great rotunda at the Stockholm Public Library with books.   >>>

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    This article is excerpted from Architecture for the Books by Michael J. Crosbie, with permission of the publisher, Images Publishing.

     

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    ArchWeek Image

    Aerial view of the Eltham (Victoria, Australia) Public Library by Gregory Burgess Architects.
    Photo: Trevor Mein

    ArchWeek Image

    The information desk is a dominant interior element.
    Photo: Trevor Mein

     

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