Stuttgart City Library

What happens when Korean influences combine with German architecture? The result is exemplified in the unique structure of the Stuttgart City Library. With demands for a new central library, the city of Stuttgart made the principle decision to build the Stuttgart City Library on Mailänder Platz in 1998, holding an architectural competition for the building’s design. Of over two hundred architectural firms that competed, the South Korea’s Eun Young Yi of Yi Architects won first place. Preliminary designs for its structure were completed in 2005, the planning application was submitted in 2006, the building permit was granted in 2007, and construction began in 2009. With construction completed in mid May of 2010, at a cost of about 80 million euros, the library was set to open on the 24th of October in 2011. 

Covering a little over 20,000 square meters, the library stands as a cube of white glass blocks, a crystalline edifice, with nine stories above ground and two stories underneath. It is covered in moveable solar panel slats that not only create a geothermal energy heating source, but provide the glass roof and windows with protection from the glaring sun as well. At night, the monuments glass facade illuminates in subtle blue and white lights, standing out among its neighboring structures such as the Milan court and Milaneo Mall.         

Inside, over an area of about 11,500 square meters, the library houses over half a million books and various media. The interior stories are shaped like a funnel, connected by stairways. Books and various media line the walls next to railed gallery space for people to explore and sit to read. As you descend to the lower stories, the space for roaming reaches further into the open center, finally reaching the floors that lie above the center of the library. The very center of the building, “the heart” is a key attraction of the library. Standing 14 meters high and wide, it is an empty space that creates the illusion that the smooth surface of the walls that bound it has been carved out of a single stone. The all-white room, naturally lit by skylights, is inspired by the Pantheon of Rome. Made of soundproof walls, it stands as a calm spacious oasis within the bustle of the library, with a capacity of 500,000 people. The library features a central foyer, study rooms, a music library, and a children’s library. The attic of the library houses an integrative café. The lower floors contain an Open End Area where books can be borrowed for up to an hour, and the basement of the building offers a conference room for up to 300 people.

Although many deficiencies became apparent within the library’s opening months, from defective doors, elevators, and alarm systems, memberships rose by 50 percent during reconstruction, and the library received a multitude of loans. Its modernity has been criticized; one critic referred to the library as a “jail for books.” But for the most part, the Stuttgart City Library is respected as a groundbreaking feat of architecture, attracting visitors from across the city and from around the world.