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Grand Libraries of the world by Thibaud Poirier

Words by Marvin Maddix


Fine Arts photographer Thibaud Poirier unveils his series “Reading is solitude” a travellers capsule of inside some of the most breathtaking libraries in the world, from Paris’s Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève to Stadtbibliothek, Stuttgart.


“Reading is solitude,” Italo Calvino once said, embodying the inspiration behind this series. These temples of cultural worship gather communities, and yet the literary experience, and therefore the experience of a library, remains solitary. Giving groups of scholars and peers glimpses into the past, present and future of humanity, literature offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore one’s self from within through the unique internal narrative that each reader develops. It is this internal narrative that forms us when we are young, matures with us, and grows when we feed it. It was the first means of travel offered to many and continues to be the most accessible form of escape for millions of people seeking knowledge, the world, themselves. It is with an eye towards this improbable bled of public space and private experience that Poirier displays some of the finest libraries, both classical and modern, across Europe.
Poirier’s perspective pays homage to the personal touches and interpretations of literature that these architects brought to each library. Like fingerprints, each architect crafted his vision for a new space for this sacred self-exploration. These seemingly minute details are everywhere, from the balance of natural and artificial light to optimise reading yet preserve ancient texts to the selective use of studying tables to either foster community or encourage lonely reflection. The selection of these libraries that span space, time, style and cultures were carefully selected for each one’s unique ambiance and architectural contribution. This is reflected in Poirier’s tasteful use of symmetry to highlight classical values of beauty, and the strong visual interpretation of the solitude that one feels when immersed in reading.
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