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In memoriam: Henri Labrouste, Father of Modern Library

March 16, 2013

In memorium: Henri Labrouste, Father of Modern Library

Who is the father of Modern Library?

Whose contribution to evolution of modern architecture is little known and even less celebrated?

Subject of an exhibition in 1975 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Henri Labrouste:

Famous for his libraries in Paris. For a reading room hailed as a precursor of modern reading spaces. Domes on thin columns. Iron frame structure.

Subject, again, of ‘Structure Brought to Light’ – an exhibition and events surrounding his work and impact of his designs. MoMA, again. Models and some beautiful drawings included. Lectures and gallery talks around architecture for reading in public spaces. All those interested in reading, libraries, light, contemplation and evolution of architecture: Go.

And while you are at it, check out Edward Munch: The Scream, and Inventing Abstraction, also on display at MoMA.

Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève by Labrouste

Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève by Labrouste

Image from MoMA

Reading room at Labrouste's Saint Genevieve library
Reading room at Labrouste’s Saint Genevieve library

And think how things have transformed in a period of 160 years since Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, where what was new and revolutionary then is now the norm.

Where the light comes from (the screen), and how libraries are redefining themselves around new media, technology and reading devices.

Compare with Joe and Rika Mansueto Library that is nothing but a shell filled with light, without a book in sight. ( @ Joe and Rika Mansueto Library) Helmut Jahn, you’ve got a thing going here…

The new library

The new library

The image is @

Two more… How we read now, and how the books are stored in the floor below at Mansueto Library.

How we read now
Reading space on the top floor at Mansueto Library
Crane between columns of bins

State of the Art underground storage at Mansueto Library

Images from library website @


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