The Most Playful Libraries in the World


We could write volumes about our love for libraries — and, well, we kind of have. During our Internet travels, we’ve stumbled across some pretty amazing places for book lovers. After spotting a playful library on Colossal, featured after the jump, we were inspired to seek out other lighthearted libraries that emphasize imagination, fun, and bookish wonder. The most well-read, creative people know that adventure and play can be a wonderful tonic for the soul. Check out more playful libraries for literature lovers of all ages.

Architect Moon Hoon designed the Panorama House in South Korea, which features a multi-functional library. A wooden slide (used by the adults in the home, too!) is flanked by stair step bookcases. Every part of the built-in library performs double duty, making it the heart of the home. The family also uses it as a seating area for their home theater, a work desk (underneath), and a casual reading hangout.

The colorful children’s section of the Seattle Central Library greets visitors on the first floor, but the spacious library is a giant literary playground for kids of all ages. The bright palette matches the well-lit, energy efficient building, featuring glass panels and metal grids that draw the sunshine inside. It’s a wondrous environment for exploring books.

This Denmark library is tucked inside the Metropol shopping mall, but the free-spirited interior design by Bosch & Fjord makes it a playful oasis away from consumer drones. The red “tape” that runs throughout the library acts as a fun decoration and occasional bookshelf. Bold colors and organic shapes (especially the furniture) “encourage playfulness, surprises, and most of all a place to be.” An electric green “reading tree,” a book-filled “fish pond,” a bean bag reading area, a “poet staircase” (a giant mouth that recites poetry aloud), inviting “study cells,” and a shelving system that bucks tradition makes the Hjørring Library a cheerful reader’s paradise.

If reading en plein air is your thing (as it should be), head to Magdeburg, Germany for a unique, communal library experience. The urban area is dominated by abandoned industrial plants, but local residents and the architects of KARO reclaimed part of the space and filled it with books. It runs on the honor system: take a book, bring it back, or bring another to take its place. The casual library also hosts public readings and local arts events.

The Safe Haven Orphanage in Thailand needed a library to help educate the children, promote community, and connect kids to the rest of the world through the Internet. Concrete, plaster, and bamboo keep the library cool and ventilated. The open design invites the outdoors in, promoting play, while quietly encouraging the children to take a break and get lost in a good book.

The Soneva Kiri resort on Koh Kood Island, Thailand boasts an artsy eco retreat, including a library that features books on permaculture and local history. We particularly love the children’s birdcage hideaway suspended over the winding, wooden staircase.

The “adventure area” of this mobile library from Heilbronn, Germany contains free-form shelves, brightly colored reading mats, and cozy seating. Designers aimed to emphasize the natural lines and dynamic environment of the bookmobile.

Photo credit: Sohm Photografx

The massive, colorful mobile in Utah’s Springville Library mirrors the rotunda’s shape and provides an imaginative place to rest the eyes between books.

Designer Sallie Trout created this home library for a family in Austin, complete with a remote-controlled bosun’s chair suspended from the ceiling. Residents use it to access the towering bookcases, but we hope they occasionally use it to hang out and read.

Students at a school in New York love reading in the Robin Hood Foundation Library. The fluid space comes to life thanks to the library’s curvilinear wall loaded with books, rolling bookshelves and reading ottomans, and transparent curtains covered in text.

Scale, space, and form are essential to the design of the Musashino Art University Museum and Library in Tokyo. The eye bounces from high to low places where catwalks, clusters of hanging lamps, and short and tall bookcases dwell. Even the floor space is activated by numbers that correspond to sections of the library. They resemble a hopscotch board. The intentionally empty shelves insinuate there is room for growth in the well-lit, casual space

Is there a better pairing than a treehouse and library? This temporary set-up in London’s Regent’s Park was created by an art collaborative as a “catalyst to ignite the collective imagination, encouraging adults and children alike to explore a variety of creative responses to nature.” Love.

The students at Grinnell College enjoy studying in the Burling Library’s stacked study carrel, which resembles an adult-sized playground. “We call it the jungle gym,” one student said.

The element of discovery was important for Sako Architects who designed this bookstore/library for the Poplar Library in Beijing. It’s child-focused, but adults can appreciate its imaginative design. Rainbow colors lead kids throughout the reading rooms, where there are tiny spaces they can camp out with a favorite book.

A community complex in the Netherlands contains a library dominated by playful, wooden workstations and splashes of bold color. Many of the benches look like works of art.