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Customer Review

TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 8 April 2014
Forty-four of the world's leading libraries are revealed in this lavish photographic celebration of books in their public homes. Considering that all these buildings hold the same thing the range of architectural styles is quite amazing, even those built in the last decade. Just compare the sweep of the atrium in the 2012 built Sir Duncan Rice Library at the Uni of Aberdeen with atrium of the Library of the Faculty of Law, Uni of Zurich, built in 2004. Both have a fresh take on a similar idea. Perhaps the common element in most of the libraries in the book is a central huge space with shelving round the walls and reading facilities on the floor.

The majority of buildings are in Europe, perhaps as expected as some are centuries old: the Library of El Escorial, Madrid dates back to 1592; Joanina Library, Coimbra, Portugal from 1728; Austrian National Library, Vienna was built in 1726. Those from outside Europe tend to reflect local architectural styles and materials. The King Fahd National Library in Riyadh, built in 2013, has an external appearance of desert tents stacked on top of each other, the smallest building in the book, in Beijing and built in 2011 is the LiYuan Library which uses thin tree branches to cover its exterior.

All of the pictures are from a variety of photographers (some libraries are from two or more) and fortunately the colour and style doesn't vary too much. Each library has the architects name and construction date, the only other text is a deep caption (in four languages) and it is here that the book is slightly flawed because several captions have been printed on the photos despite having plenty of empty page space. Mostly the buildings get two spreads each with two or three photos, frequently a spread wide. They are, of course, beautifully printed (with a 175 screen) on a matt art paper.

'Libraries' looks at these fascinating buildings from an architectural angle but the book will intrigue any book lover.
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