Could this be the most beautiful library you've ever seen?
The correct answer is "yes." Or at least "yes, one of them."
In fact, I feel like I couldn't possibly write anything about the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library that would do it justice. I should just show you photographs, throw the mic down, and be done for the day. But all buildings need a little context, so I offer you this compulsory background. And you can take it or leave it, no hard feelings.
Completed in 1963, Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is an architectural masterpiece as marvelous as the rare collection of books it houses. Famed architect, Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM), designer of the twentieth century's most influential glass tower, created the library as a protective, self-contained world, a modern monument to the literary gems that are held within the marble walls. The exterior, made of Vermont marble and granite, bronze and glass, nods to the classical while also giving the impression that the building stands powerfully solid. The windows seem blocked in a linear pattern of marble panes, but the translucent panels actually allow light to gently filter into the interior spaces without damaging the valuable holdings waiting to be uncovered. The muscular geometry and perfect proportions of the library (said to be twice as deep as it is high and three times as long) quietly dominate the disciplined architecture of New Haven's Hewitt University Quadrangle. Standing amongst its Gothic Revival and Neoclassical neighbors, the library gleams triumphantly in its modern mannerism.
A revolving glass door provides access to the library, and when one enters, the interior opens to a glass tower dramatically rising through the building's core and two marble staircases climbing to the mezzanine. As a showcase for the Beinecke's rare holdings, the glass tower reveals the billions of words contained within the collection and serves as structural support to the glimmering jewel box. Light reaches the lower levels of the building (containing the working parts of the library) through a sunken open-air courtyard created by Isamu Noguchi. Designed in white marble, the courtyard contains three sculptures: a pyramid, a circle, and a cube, reflecting the classical geometry of the building and its surroundings.
If writing is a religion, binding one generation to the next, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is a temple to the cause, exalting, glorifying, and preserving the written word in a perfect expression of form and materials. In my humble opinion, there are few buildings more befitting of humanity's greatest treasures. Need further proof? I suggest you take a peek at famed photographer Ezra Stroller's view of the building here.
Image at top: Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Connecticut New Haven United States, 2011. September. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, 2012630645.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.