Knowledge comes wrapped in beauty in these libraries in Mexico City, Helsinki and Tianjin.
In many cities, libraries are housed in utilitarian buildings, relying on the books within to paint the pictures and tell the stories. That's not the case in Mexico City, Helsinki, and Tianjin though, where incredible tales are housed in even more incredible buildings.
Finland enjoys the world's highest literacy rate – and is not afraid to show it. Designed by local architecture firm ALA, the Oodi Library and its spruce-clad facade stands proudly opposite the Finnish parliament building in the center of Helsinki.
Interestingly, only one-third of the 185,677-sq-ft building, which opened in 2018, is filled with books. The rest is designed as a cultural hub with a movie theatre, bar, restaurant, and public balcony. It comes packed with innovative areas too, including a recording studio and a makers' space.
Tianjin's stunning 366,000sq-ft library has 1.2 million books housed on sweeping terraced shelves. Designed by Dutch design firm MVRDV, in collaboration with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute, it's shaped like a watchful eye – with its pupil an opaque globe in the center of it all – leading to its nickname, the Eye of Binhai.
Even if you don’t read a word of Spanish, the cathedral-like mega library of Biblioteca Vasconcelos is well worth a small detour from Mexico City's historic city center. Named after José Vasconcelos, a philosopher and former presidential candidate, its five-story atrium flanked by towering metal bookshelves is like something out of a sci-fi novel.
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