Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bookish travel: Luisenbad Bibliothek in Berlin

More than any other European cities, Berlin is in a permanent process of reinventing itself. A ruin in the aftermath of the WWII, divided by the Cold War and reunited in the last decade of the 20th century, it succeeded to cope successfully with the challenges, recreating spaces and reassigning new meanings to buildings.
One of such case is the renovated neo-Baroque Luisenbad Bibliothek in the Wedding neighbourhood. Situated around 10 minutes of walk from the metro station Osloerstrasse, on Travem├╝ndestr. 2, the building, itself a mixture of at least two different styles, has more than one history. It used to be a public pool - Bad means bath, but also pool in German - named after the beloved Prusian princess Luise, a restaurant and coffee shop - See the more colourful part with mosaique-like tiles added to the classical structure, where you can read KafeK├╝che - Coffee and Cake - and lately Marienbad Kino/Movie Theatre until the construction of the Wall. 
Since 1978, the construction is part of the historical landmarks and therefore, its renovation process, done by the architecture bureau Rebecca Chestnutt-Robert Niess in 1995, was requested and paid by the local authorities. 
As in the case of many other historical buildings that went through dramatic renovation process, the principle of collage was used in the case of this library, meaning that the original structures and patterns were maintained as much as possible, to which modern and more functional layers were added. For instance, the original tiles from the pool can be walked in for entering the library.
The building has two floors and an underground level. Besides the space of the library, an additional first store is available for various literary events or dedicated to children activities. (On a side note, it is amazing how many programs offered by the local libraries in Berlin target children, including within the first two years of life. I will write a post about this soon.) One of the nowadays activities halls do have exquisite cherub decorations, originally from 1912.
The older and newest part of the construction are brought together by white bridges punctured by suspended lights. The effect is an interesting game of delicate volumes filling the space between steady resistance structures. 
The walls and roofs of glass, through which the natural light is beautifying and adds volume to the entire structure. I've seen media reports about the existence of bullet holes from 1945 in the walls, but maybe my visit was too fast and I haven't noticed anything. The next time I will look more careful.
As for the book collection, it is really impressive. During my trips all over the various libraries of the city, I noticed how different is the usual bookish menu, and how actually, you can find completely different books in every library. Here I noticed a very rich music and video collection - including an extensive Bollywood shelf, plus a children library in at least 10 languages. It also has interesting hobby and self-help and wellness books, in German.
Books are smart people's best friends, but when the company is enjoyed in a very creative space, the beauty effects are amplified. I really enjoyed visiting this place, my only regret being that I am living too far away to check even more seriously their offer of books and literary events. 

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