Cool Bookish Places

A Ludicrously Luxurious Law Library

Derek Attig

Staff Writer

Derek works in graduate student career development and is (believe it or not) one of the world's foremost experts on the history of bookmobiles. Follow Derek on Twitter @bookmobility and on Instagram @bookmobility.

Library architecture/design these days is all about glass and steel, about clean lines and sans serif fonts. Don’t get me wrong: many new library buildings are utterly gorgeous, and they’re nicely designed to meet community needs. But sometimes, you just want something different.

So here’s a sumptuous, romantic slap in the face:

Law Library from knstrct

Juristische Bibliotek, Munich. Photo from

Just look at it, all bright and gleamingly warm. This is Munich’s municipal law library, housed in the city’s Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), a soaring, neo-Gothic confection built at the close of the nineteenth century:


Munich Rathaus (Law Library)

It’s a lot of building to live up to, but I think the law library manages it. Photo by Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons

While contemporary library spaces are often sustainable (yay!), and they may be paved with soothingly earth-toned industrial carpeting (meh!), the aesthetic is more girder than vine, more artfully-exposed wiring than glowing wood. Sure, it probably wasn’t sustainable—God knows what forest was felled to build those walls and doors and shelves—but from its floors to its spectacularly high ceilings, the law library is a celebration of a hyper-stylized, luxurious nature. Check out the railings on that great spiral staircase, rendered as vines and leaves in three glorious dimensions:

Law Library Stairs

Spiral staircase in the law library. Photo by the.mat

And the light fixtures repeat this motif, in an even wilder way, seeming to grow directly out of the wall, dripping lamps like luminous fruit:

Law Library Lamps

Lamps in the Law Library. Photo from

I love the warmth of the shelving contrasted and combined with the smooth white plaster of the ceiling. While normally, I’m not a big fan of wood as a design element—probably a side-effect of a childhood encounter with ugly, splintery paneling—here, with those railings and those lights, it creates a strange sort of arboreal cocoon, a warm forest in which to enjoy the bookish life.

Too bad the library’s filled with law books. Sigh. I propose we take it over and fill it with Thoreau and the Brontës! We can even throw in some Goethe and Heine, since I suppose the library is in Germany. Who’s with me?


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