12 libraries for the new millennium

In a time of global systemic crisis, libraries are increasingly a beacon of community awareness and identity, projects developed in the belief that only knowledge will save us. We have selected 12 representative projects around the world.

Far beyond their function as ‘containers’ for collecting and preserving material heritage, and in recent times, also digital heritage, libraries are often driving forces behind urban regeneration and inclusion, triggering not only cultural but also economic and social development processes. It is no coincidence that many library projects signed by internationally prestigious architects are located in areas that are conflictual and degraded (El Equipo Mazzanti), urbanistically in transformation (Yi Architects, Herzog & De Meuron, Atelier Femia) or where the need to constitute a “binder” to mend or fortify a sense of identity and belonging to a community is particularly alive (Kéré Architecture, Helen & Hard).

In other contexts, libraries play the role of imposing urban “catalysts” (Rem Koolhaas and Adjaye Associates) and strategic tools of territorial marketing (Foster + Partners).

In any case, as Marguerite Yourcenar used to say, “The founding of libraries is like constructing more public granaries, amassing reserves against a spiritual winter which by certain signs, in spite of myself, I see ahead…”, whether it is in an emblazoned 17th-century mansion (Juan Navarro Baldeweg) or among the dense buildings in the heart of Manhattan (RPBW), or in a crowded, prosaic shopping mall (X + Living).

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