In this week’s Princh Library Blog, recurring guest writer Nina Grant talks about three architectural marvels from around the globe, which are some of the tallest libraries in the world. Enjoy!

Libraries are architectural marvels, community hubs, and symbols of intellect. Some libraries stand tall — literally — making them extraordinary in both design and purpose. So which ones are some of the tallest and most breathtaking libraries in the world?

Shanghai Library East Hall (Shanghai, China)

The Shanghai Library East Hall is a true giant. It stands at 115 meters tall, and it’s not just one of the tallest—it’s one of the busiest. With over 20 million books, it needs all the space it can get.

But what makes it extraordinary is its blend of traditional Chinese design and modern architecture. It has reading rooms, research facilities, conference halls, and even a few gardens. Needless to say, the library is a testament to groundbreaking engineering—constructing something this tall and functional requires precise planning and execution. The building’s sturdy yet elegant design proves that while height is impressive, it’s also about making every meter count.

This breathtaking project took 5 years to complete, and was finished in 2022, but planning for the Shanghai Library East Hall began well before the 2017 groundbreaking. Planning, design, and construction phases of the library took a bit more time than expected, but it was worth the wait.

National Library of Belarus (Minsk, Belarus)

Situated in Minsk, the National Library of Belarus is another stunner, reaching up to 73.6 meters. What sets it apart isn’t just its height but its unique shape—a rhombicuboctahedron, to be precise. That’s a fancy term for a shape with eight triangular and eighteen square faces, and this design turns heads.

This library houses over 10 million items, including rare manuscripts and ancient texts. It’s a cultural and educational center hosting exhibitions, lectures, and even concerts. What’s also amazing about this library is that the structure is designed to optimize both natural and artificial lighting, making it more energy-efficient. The facade lights up in various colors, and transforms it into a massive LED display at night.

This impressive construction took some time to complete—they actually had some delays mainly due to details like money issues and the tricky design which slowed things down. The unique rhombicuboctahedron shape wasn’t easy to pull off. So, instead of wrapping up sooner, they finished in June 2006, almost 5 years after starting in November 2002.

Seattle Central Library (Seattle, USA)

The Seattle Central Library comes in at No. 3, but still stands at an impressive 56 meters and packs a visual punch. It’s a modern architectural marvel designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. This library is innovative, featuring a glass and steel exterior that makes it look like something out of a sci-fi movie.

It’s home to over 1.5 million books and sees thousands of visitors every day. What makes it remarkable is its functionality. It has a “Books Spiral” that allows people to browse the entire collection without having to switch floors. There are also various zones designed for different activities, from quiet reading to interactive sessions.

What’s really impressive about the Seattle Central Library is that it only took about four years to finish it—planning and design included. They had the groundbreaking ceremony in 1999, and by May 23, 2004, the doors were open to the public. One big reason this got done so fast is because they brought in the nation’s best construction workers—they knew their craft inside out. Their mental and physical readiness on the construction site guaranteed everything went smoothly without mishaps and injuries. Thanks to them, the project turned out to be a massive success completed on schedule.

Shanghai Library East Hall, the National Library of Belarus, and the Seattle Central Library are landmarks of culture, intellect, and innovation. Built by skilled professionals, these extraordinary libraries stand as testaments to what’s possible when creativity, expertise, and community focus come together.

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We will be back with another interesting article from the library world soon!

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Nina Grant

Nina is a passionate writer and editor who likes to cover a variety of topics.

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