Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Exhibit Inspirations: A(nother) Labyrinthine Library

Libraries and labyrinths definitely go together. It's a well-loved literary tradition, from Jorge Luis Borge's "The Library of Babel" to the library in The Name of the Rose. (Actually, I can't think of any others,but there must be some, right? I mean, come on.) Now, as it turns out, a genius bookshop has taken a page from Eco's book (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist) and created a fantastic art space at The Last Bookstore in LA called, yes, the Labyrinth. There's a really delightful piece in the LA Times about it, which simultaneously gave me hope for the future of booksellers in America and pretty much singlehandedly convinced me to go ahead and take a pilgrimage to my least favorite city ever just to see it. (Of course, LA is also the home of another of my absolute favorite labyrinthine spaces ever, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, so I should probably start trying to get funding for my coffee table book about Los Angeles Labyrinths now and kill, like, all the birds with one weighty, photo-laden, hardcover stone.)

Of course, reading about this fantastic space has got me all jazzed about the idea of building my own goshdarned library labyrinth because why not. I mean, if I'm going to be building a museum anyway. The Chapel of the Chimes, a slightly more...esoteric...take on this pairing, is one of the major inspirations for the way I envision the space, although the "books" in that particular intricate nest of stone chapels and mysterious passages are full of people's ashes. (God, the temptation to make "lost in a good book" jokes is killing me.) And, of course, as soon as I started thinking about writing this post, I just had to go and look at about five hundred pictures of libraries - just on Wikimedia alone, mind you, because I wanted to post all the best ones and I'm trying to be good about only using content I have permission for, so this is skipping all the spectacular images to be had just from simple googling. Which is probably a good thing, because when it comes to the collection of labyrinthine library images on the internet, well, a girl could really lose herself browsing...oh, god help me. To avoid any more awful puns, let me simply roll out some of my favorite finds. Remember - these aren't the prettiest libraries. These are the ones I am least likely to ever make my way out of...

This library looks deceptively pleasant. Ha!
No, seriously, you'll never get out of there.
The Bibliothek St. Florian, Austria, by
Stephan Brunker at de.wikipedia.
(GFDL) from Wikimedia Commons

Shut up, Austria, we get it. You make the best weird libraries.
Max Reinhardt Library, Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, Austria.
Modeled after the St. Gallen's monastery library in Switzerland.
By Jorge Royan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]
via Wikimedia Commons

This is kind of what I envisioned the first time I read
"The Library of Babel," but no, it's actually the George
Peabody Library, Baltimore, MD. By Matthew Petroff
(Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This is what you get when sugar-crazed Disney elves get told
to build a library. You'll never get out because all the doors
are just painted on. Wait, just kidding, it's the library at the
Schussenried Monastery in Upper Swabia. By Andreas
Praefcke (Own work) [GFDL] via Wikimedia Commons

A more modern take. Endlessly nested Star Trek dream
sequences would work great in here, amiright?
Bibliothek Stuttgart, Germany. By Rae Bo
[GFDL] via Wikimedia Commons.

Speaking of Star Trek, this Borg ship of a library probably
has unspeakable things glittering in its bowels. A modern
minotaur, if you like. One thing is for sure: cubes are
always dangerous. Beinecke Rare Books and
Manuscripts Library, Yale University.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Yeah, like anyone is ever getting out of this one. This is
starting to unnerve me a little. Where did I put all those
nice, wooden, calmingly mysterious libraries? Oh, help.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Mexico City, Mexico.
By Eneas de Troya (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0]
via Wikimedia Commons

Nope, still unnerved. The National Library of Finland:
nowwith more funhouse! This is what my nightmares
look like when I forget to bring back overdue books.
By Kallerna (own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]
Via Wikimedia Commons

I do feel like Borges would have liked this one.
The Reading Room at the Real Gabinete 
Português de Leitur, Rio de Janeir, Brazil.
By Eugenio Hansen, OFS (Own work)
[GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm sure I'm missing plenty of labyrinthine libraries in here, just due to the Creative Commons restriction and also the fact that I've looked at well over a thousand thumbnails already today to bring you this post and my eyesballs are about to fall out. Please point out omissions in the comments. As inspirations go, though, I feel like that's a pretty good start.


  1. What about the library from The Last Crusade? It even had a labyrinth under it, too.


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