These Are the Most Beautiful Libraries in the West
From small-town Alaska to downtown L.A., these architectural wonders impress with their stunning designs and swoon-worthy collections
Geisel Library, University of San Diego, La Jolla, CA
This marvel of concrete and glass has become a standout landmark on the UCSD campus. Named for Audrey and Theodore Seuss Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss), the imaginative design seems to be fitting tribute.
Arabian Library, Scottsdale, AZ
In a rust hue and curving shape that pay homage to the surrounding desert landscape, the building’s award-winning design shines with indoor-outdoor elements, such as “canyon courts” that open to the sky.
Seattle Public Library
Famed architects Rem Koolhaus and Joshua Prince-Ramus took the helm of revamping Seattle’s public libraries in the late ‘90s, and their magic touch shows in the very contemporary glass-and-steel main branch. The architectural interest doesn’t stop once you enter its doors, either. Don’t miss the interior “book spiral,” a corkscrew-shaped display system connected by ramps that enable you to browse shelves while remaining on the same floor.
Los Angeles Central Library
The largest public library in the West, the DTLA icon was designed with Ancient Egypt in mind in a nod to one of history’s most illuminated civilizations. You can see it in the tiled pyramid topping the structure as well as more subtle geometric motifs throughout the interior.
UNAM Central Library, Mexico City
Housing one of the largest book collections in Mexico, this palace to learning happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a glance at its sublimely intricate edifice and it’s not hard to see why. The exterior mural is but one of many gracing the building inside and out.
Vancouver Central Library
With a facade resembling the Roman Colosseum, a continuous outdoor piazza, and an internal glass facade and elliptical-shaped wall framing the entry, it’s one eye-catching feature after another at this downtown-set main branch.
San Francisco Main Library
The modern building’s pièce de résistance is its dramatic, spiral-shaped skylight capping off a five-story atrium. In fact, incorporating natural light seemed to be a guiding principle in the design, as also seen in the light wells appearing throughout, intersected by bridges connecting the building floors.
Hawaii State Library, Honolulu
On the outside, it’s all Ancient Rome what with the stately columns and arches. The inside, however, is locally inspired: murals depict Hawaiian legends, a garden courtyard features a mosaic rendering of ocean waves.
Salt Lake City Main Library
A five-story glass atrium seems to be a library-topping trend (we’re looking at you, San Francisco)—and why not? When it affords 360-degree views, as is the case in the SLC Main Library, it pays the eye candy forward. Also on top of this stunner: a rooftop garden to please more than just your visual sense.
UC Berkeley Doe Library, Berkeley, CA
The more than 100-year-old massive Neoclassical structure is both a knockout work of architecture and a prime gathering place on campus. With its grand columns and Spanish-tiled roof, it’s not hard to see why undergrads flock here for studying inside and lounging on the lawn beside it.
Billings Public Library, Billings, MT
The ultra-modern BPL is just over five years old and locals are proud of its new-ish look. The building has also racked up national recognition in the form of a prestigious library design award and LEED Platinum status for its standout sustainability and energy efficiency. Don’t miss the children’s area, anchored by a soaring tower that extends out through the top story up to the sky, inspiring young readers and architecture fans alike.
Homer Public Library, Homer, AK
This LEED Silver-certified building is not only easy on the eyes, but also on the earth. The projected incorporated many locally sourced, salvaged materials, such as a reclaimed high school gym floor that was repurposed into reading surfaces, as well as lovely nature-inspired elements such as interspersed timber trusses that elicit a “reading nook in the woods” vibe.
Heathman Hotel, Portland, OR
The sky-high library at the Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland features more than 3,000 volumes signed by authors in a grand case. From Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winners to U.S. Poet Laureates and a former U.S. President, the collection was pieced together across 30 years of visitors.
Courtesy of Heathman Hotel