Beyond Bookshelves: 7 Dynamic Libraries Designed for the 21st Century

In the digital age, libraries have evolved beyond bookshelves, serving as community spaces that facilitate learning, communication and collaboration.

Tian Wang Tian Wang

Architects: Want to have your project featured? Showcase your work through Architizer and sign up for our inspirational newsletters.

Libraries are primarily built for storing and accessing books and archives. As knowledge and education become more and more accessible to everyone, library designs need to take into account a diverse user group who might use the facilities on a casual daily basis.

Meanwhile, people’s ways of learning and working continue evolving with technologies, calling for spaces that are fluid enough to accommodate different activities. Responding to the changes, nowadays libraries are not only bookshelves and reading rooms but community spaces that facilitate learning and working in a digital age as well as communication and collaboration.

Forum Groningen_exterior Forum Groningen_interior_2Forum Groningen by NL Architects, Groningen, Netherlands
Jury Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Libraries

Forum Groningen is a cultural complex that combines the functions of a library, museum and cinema. All functions are contained within one volume, with a viewing platform on the roof providing an unblocked view of the urban fabrics around. A void cuts through the center of all floor levels, around which the main circulation is centered. Quiet reading rooms with individual seats, co-working areas, an auditorium, a cinema, exhibition spaces and more are arranged on different floors.

springdale_exterior springdale_interiorSpringdale Library & Komagata Maru Park by RDH Architects, Brampton, Canada
Jury Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Architecture +Community

The Springdale Library is combined with Komagata Maru Park, together they form a soothing place to way through or stay. Both landscape and building volumes are shaped into rounded-corner triangles on the plan to emphasize integrity. The topography of the library’s roof echoes that of the park, which is also reflected inside the building creating an undulating ceiling. The courtyard among library buildings become part of the scenery looking out from the library while remaining in the circulation through the park.

oodi_aerial oodi_interior_top-floorHelsinki Central Library Oodi by ALA Architects, Helsinki, Finland

Oodi serves as a common living room for the city of Helsinki. The first floor of the building is indented to form a shelter at the entrance that faces the plaza outside. Most public functions are gathered on this level, including a multipurpose hall, a restaurant, a playground, an exhibition space and a cinema, all threaded by the main circulation.

The second floor is clad in timber and houses workshops for music and multimedia. Floating on top of the wood volume is the library space with views of the cityscape. The library offers a variety of seating areas ranging from table seats to sound-buffered rooms for reading out loud.

TCDC_interior_2 TCDC_interior_1Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) by Department of ARCHITECTURE, Bangkok, Thailand

The TCDC contains a design library, a material library and a co-working space, all designed in the manner of a café that encourages conversations and idea exchanges. The libraries include areas storing books, magazines, material samples, digital media and spaces for mini-exhibitions.

Furniture and the translucent bookshelves remain relatively low, leaving a generous overhead space that creates a feeling of openness. Seats come in groups and are spread throughout the building to provide immediate access to working areas for both individuals and groups so that people can discuss or document their thoughts conveniently.

Architecture library chulalongkorn uni_exterior Architecture library chulalongkorn uni_interior 1Architecture Library, Chulalongkorn University by Department of ARCHITECTURE, Bangkok, Thailand

The Architecture Library of Chulalongkorn University is designed to reactivate the library as a learning space for architecture students. Apart from design books, the library provides large tables where students can gather around with enough table areas to share large-format works. Surrounding these co-working tables are a 3D-grided wall system that comes with magnetic boards and monitors, all utilizable for pin-ups and presentation. On other floor levels, a terraced seating area that can be reformed into an auditorium and a quiet reading room with cubicles for one person are also available to meet different needs.

greenpoint_exterior greenpoint_interiorGreenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center by Marble Fairbanks, Brooklyn, Kings County, NY, United States

The LEED-standard Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center combines everyday library use and community spaces with environmental strategies demonstrations. The library splits into reading rooms for adults, young adults and children respectively. The education center contains labs for educational projects, event spaces for community activities and meeting rooms.Gardens at two different roof levels and the street level are designed as outdoor reading spaces. They are at the same time eco-classrooms with vegetation collections and facilities such as a rainwater cistern close by.

Third-place_roof-garden-scaled Third-place_interior-scaledMedia Library [Third-Place] by Dominique Coulon & Associés, Thionville, France

Third-Place is a media library that provides reading areas of different kinds to free readers’ postures. Visitors can sit by the desk if they want to work with a computer comfortably or stay on a sofa of their choice to read a book casually, or even find a cut on the wall to fit themselves in, curling up as they like. The interior reading areas flow into one open-planned space, sharing lighting and a continuous roof that undulates. Discussion spaces are placed outdoor while remaining visually connected to the indoors through glazed walls. A roof garden is available for more group activities, relaxation and more.

Architects: Want to have your project featured? Showcase your work through Architizer and sign up for our inspirational newsletters.

Read more articles by Tian

Beyond Borders: The World Unites Around the Destruction of Ukrainian Heritage

Italy's pledge to rebuild the Theater of Mariupol highlights the global nature of Ukraine's cultural losses, which are deeply felt around the world.

The Future of Architecture: Is Design for Freedom Starting the Industry’s Next Paradigm Shift?

Are your building's materials ethically sourced? What if designers thought about embodied labor the way that they think about embodied carbon?