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15 Gorgeous Little Free Libraries

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user David Silver.

The Little Free Library movement began in Wisconsin in 2009, and gained momentum quickly. Little free libraries sprung up all over the world—outside cafes, in parks, beside full-sized libraries and bookstores, and even in people’s front yards. They have books inside for anyone to borrow, with signs inviting users to donate books. By January 2015, the number of mini libraries registered with the Little Free Library organization had grown to 22,000. 

We’ve gathered some of the best photos of Little Free Libraries we could find, everything from the classic house-like structures for sale on the organization’s website to a series of little libraries in New York City sponsored by the PEN World Voices Festival and The Architectural League of New York.

1. I’ll be your mirror

Fourth Arts Block, Extra Place with stpmj, photo courtesy of stpmj.

This little library at Fourth Arts Block is clad in mirrors that reflect the street art on a nearby brick wall. 

2. Repurposed newspaper box

Photo credit Flickr user Josh Larios.

The slow decline of traditional news media does not, fortunately, mean the end of reading. 

3. Inspired by Andrew Carnegie

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Hay, The Architectural League of New York. 

The Little Free Library project has drawn much of its inspiration from Andrew Carnegie, the great funder of American libraries. This library was placed outside New York City’s University Settlement by Mark Rakatansky Studio with Aaron White. 

4. British phone booth style

Photo by Christine Modey.

American phone booths were never this pretty. 

5. Nook and cranny

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Hay, The Architectural League of New York.

This inventive library is set between two pillars outside Cooper Union in New York City. It was designed by the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture’s Design III Studio with Maja Hjertsén Knutson and Christopher Taleff, designer leaders and Michael Young, David Allin and Lydia Kallipoliti, faculty team. 

6. The A-Frame

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mark Turnauckas.

This little library in Ohio is adorably triangular. 

7. Particleboard that looks like paper

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Hay, The Architectural League of New York.

This Little Free Library doubles as a bench. It’s located at the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council in New York City, and was designed with Chat Travieso. 

8. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mark McClure

The Little Free Library organization encourages people to build libraries out of reclaimed materials, like this repurposed window. 

9. Sunshine on a cloudy day

Photo courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan/PEN American Center. 

This cheerful Little Free library at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral School was designed by The They Co. with Stereotank. 

10. The Doctor is In

Photo by @EugeneTardisLFL

Many LFLs have been designed to look like the Tardis from Dr. Who

11. The Wall-E of Little Free Libraries

Photo by Carolyn Kellogg.

This LFL in Joshua Tree looks like a pair of robot eyes. 

12. The book in the bubble

New York University with Matter Practice, photo courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan/PEN American Center. 

Some Little Free Libraries are small enough that they only hold one book, like this one at New York University that’s attracting the attention of a passing child. 

13. The bird house

Photo courtesy of Mallorn Imagery

This library in Moscow looks like it could hold bird seed as well as books. 

14. The transparent library

Photo courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan/PEN American Center.

This installation at La MaMa in New York City, designed with Davies Tang + Toews, has a clear compartment for each book. 

15. Park it here

Created by the Hester Street Collaborative with Shannon Harvey, Adam Michaels and Levi Murphy, photo courtesy of Shannon Harvey.

This library on Hester Street in New York transforms an ordinary cement lot into a refuge. 

Is there a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? Show us a picture in the comments! If you don’t have one near you yet, check out the Little Free Library website for information on how to buy or build your own little library. 

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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
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Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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Pol Viladoms
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architecture
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
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Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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