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8 Incredible Libraries in Asia

We’ve brought you libraries from Europe, South America, and North America. Now it’s time to head to Asia to see what the East has to offer.

1. David Sassoon Library, India

Images courtesy of Flickr users bookchen and Carol Mitchell.

Completed in 1870, the David Sassoon Library is one of only 145 monuments protected by India’s government, and the oldest library in Mumbai. One of its most famous features is the beautiful garden in the back—a rare sight in the commercial area in which it is located.The library and reading room were originally intended to be an entire institute dedicated to mechanics, science and technology, but funding ran short. The Sassoon Mechanic’s Institute was renamed the David Sassoon Library and Reading Room after its primary donor.

2. Raza Library, India

The Raza Library in Rampur was completed in 1904, and once part of a palace. While many of the royal family’s other properties have been left to crumble, the library is still protected by the Indian government—another one of the country’s few protected monuments.

The royal family started gathering works for the library way back in 1774. Included in their collection are 17,000 rare manuscripts, 205 hand-written palm leaves and 5000 miniature paintings.

3. The National Library of China

Image courtesy of  Flickr user Dennis Deng.

If you’re looking for info on China’s ancient history, the National Library of China’s old buildings might be a good place to start. They serve as the home to an array of historical and ancient books and manuscripts—even inscribed tortoise shells. And though the buildings themselves are designed in a traditional Chinese style, they were only completed in 1987.

4. The Tianyi Pavilion Library, China

Images courtesy of What's On Ningbo.

If you're looking for real traditional Chinese architecture, you’ll need to leave Beijing and head over to Ningbo City—home to the oldest private library in Asia. Built in 1560 by a retired imperial minister, Tianyi Pavilion Library is the third oldest private library in the world. As you might expect, the collection is rather impressive: 300,000 ancient books, including a number of woodcut and handwritten titles.

5. National Library of Bhutan

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Christopher J. Flynn.

Completed in 1984, the National Library of Bhutan is also technically a Buddhist temple; it had to be consecrated in order to house the religious texts that make up most of the collection. The structure is intended to integrate the three aspects of Buddha and his teachings: the physical represented by statues and paintings, the speech represented by books and printing blocks, and the heart represented by the eight small bowls found on the shrine on the first floor.

The library is home to about 6,100 Tibetan and Bhutanese books, manuscripts and xylographs, and about 9000 printing boards and wood printing blocks. While the collection isn’t massive, it is home to one of the largest collections of Buddhist literature in the world.

6. Grand People’s Study House, North Korea

Images courtesy of Flickr users John Pavelka and gadgetdan.

The Study House was completed 1982 in honor of Kim Il-Sung’s 70th birthday and features an amazing 600 rooms with capacity for 30 million books. Of course, being housed in North Korea, foreign publications are only available with special permission, so it will probably be a while before all the shelves are full.

7. Nakanoshima Library, Japan

Image courtesy Flickr users hetgallery of and muzina_shanghai.

This Neo-Baroque design might not be something you’d immediately associate with Japan, but the 1904 Nakanoshima Library actually fits in quite well in Osaka, as the area has quite a few other stone-walled buildings with similar architecture. This building, complete with a copper roof dome (not visible in the exterior image above), is certainly one of the most stunning.

8. Beitou Library, Taiwan

Images courtesy of Flickr user JAQ's PhotoStorage.

While this attractive building might not be the most beautiful one on this list, it is undeniably the most eco-friendly and the most modern. The slanted roof collects moisture from humidity and rain, and then recycles it for the restrooms and gardens. The Beitou Library has also been fitted with solar panels and deep-set and latticed windows to reduce energy use. The building was the first to achieve a diamond rating under the government’s new eco-friendliness rating system.

This list is not exhaustive, of course. There are probably hundreds we couldn't mention here. Do any of you have pictures of great libraries in Asia? Leave a comment with a link so we can check them out!

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Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
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Step Inside This Stunning, Nature-Inspired Art Gallery in Tulum, Mexico
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

Upon closer inspection, this building in Tulum, Mexico, doesn’t seem like a suitable place to house an art exhibit. Everything that makes it so visually striking—its curved walls, uneven floors, and lack of drab, white backgrounds—also makes it a challenge for curators.

But none of these factors deterred Santiago Rumney Guggenheim—the great-grandson of the late famed art collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim—from christening the space an art gallery. And thus, IK LAB was born.

“We want to trigger the creative minds of artists to create for a completely different environment,” Rumney Guggenheim, the gallery’s director, tells Artsy. “We are challenging the artists to make work for a space that doesn’t have straight walls or floors—we don’t even have walls really, it’s more like shapes coming out of the floor. And the floor is hardly a floor.”

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

IK LAB was brought to life by Rumney Guggenheim and Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel, the founder of luxury resort Azulik. The two properties, which have a similar style of architecture, share a site near the Caribbean coast. IK LAB may be unconventional, but it certainly makes a statement. Its ceiling is composed of diagonal slats resembling the veins of a leaf, and a wavy wooden texture breaks up the monotony of concrete floors. Entry to the gallery is gained through a 13-foot-high glass door that’s shaped a little like a hobbit hole.

The gallery was also designed to be eco-conscious. The building is propped up on stilts, which not only lets wildlife pass underneath, but also gives guests a view overlooking the forest canopy. Many of the materials have been sourced from local jungles. Gallery organizers say the building is designed to induce a “meditative state,” and visitors are asked to go barefoot to foster a more sensory experience. (Be careful, though—you wouldn't want to trip on the uneven floor.)

The gallery's first exhibition, "Alignments," features the suspended sculptures of Artur Lescher, the perception-challenging works of Margo Trushina, and the geometrical pendulums of Tatiana Trouvé. One piece by Trouvé features 250 pendulums suspended from the gallery's domed ceiling. If you want to see this exhibit, be sure to get there before it ends in September.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Engineers Have Figured Out How the Leaning Tower of Pisa Withstands Earthquakes
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iStock

Builders had barely finished the second floor of the Tower of Pisa when the structure started to tilt. Despite foundational issues, the project was completed, and eight centuries and at least four major earthquakes later, the precarious landmark remains standing. Now, a team of engineers from the University of Bristol and other institutions claims to have finally solved the mystery behind its endurance.

Pisa is located between the Arno and Serchio rivers, and the city's iconic tower was built on soft ground consisting largely of clay, shells, and fine sand. The unstable foundation meant the tower had been sinking little by little until 2008, when construction workers removed 70 metric tons of soil to stabilize the site. Today it leans at a 4-degree angle—about 13 feet past perfectly vertical.

Now researchers say that the dirt responsible for the tower's lean also played a vital role in its survival. Their study, which will be presented at this year's European Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Greece, shows that the combination of the tall, stiff tower with the soft soil produced an effect known as dynamic soil-structure interaction, or DSSI. During an earthquake, the tower doesn't move and shake with the earth the same way it would with a firmer, more stable foundation. According to the engineers, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the world's best example of the effects of DSSI.

"Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the tower to the verge of collapse can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events," study co-author George Mylonakis said in a statement.

The tower's earthquake-proof foundation was an accident, but engineers are interested in intentionally incorporating the principles of DSSI into their structures—as long as they can keep them upright at the same time.

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