An Outdoor Library

Frigid temperatures here in the Northeast have got me daydreaming about reading out in the sunshine. This open-air library in Magdeburg, Germany would certainly do the trick.

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This industrial city was once part of Eastern Germany, and since reunification, its city center has had trouble recovering, with commercial vacancy rates of approaching 80%. So when local residents expressed interest in a low-cost, open-air concept for a new library, it took an extraordinary effort to get the project started.

The concept from Karo architects was assembled in a 1:1 scale out of donated beer crates to demonstrate to potential supporters that the library could work. After the community raised enough money to build a permanent version.

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Being outdoors is not the library’s only exceptional quality: no registration is required; books are taken and returned on the honor system; and it is open 24 hours a day.

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Indeed, the library has been such a wild success that it has become a pilot program for studying how to reinvigorate other depressed areas and has won a raft of design and architecture awards. But perhaps nothing speaks to the library’s success more than this: the library is completely staffed by volunteers who maintain the library’s 20,000 volumes, for the love of books, reading, and of their city.

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