Library of Alexandria, the old and the new

Library of Alexandria, the old and the new

Library of Alexandria, the old and the new

Probably the most famous and most significant library of the antiquated world was no other than the Ancient Library of Alexandria. I remember hearing about this particular building already at a young age.

 

The library of Alexandria
The history of lost knowledge

 

THE OLD

Anyone who is a bit familiar with the history knows that this previous structure was destroyed. Sources claim the Library of Alexandria was destroyed due to a famous burning. Many ancient sources state that Caesar set his own ships on fire. The fire spread to the library, destroying it as well.

 

“…after burning the docks, thence spread on and destroyed the great library.”

 

A quote from Plutarch, a geek biographer for the Life of Ceasar. So a pagan and a Christian historian wrote that the Bibliotheca Alexandrina had been destroyed by Caesar’s fire. However, Florus (Roman Historian) and Lucan (Roman Poet) claim that the flames of Ceasar burnt only the fleet and some houses near the sea.

 

The library continued to exist to some degree until its contents were destroyed. Emperor Aurelian was responsible for the great loss due to taking over the city and damaging a huge part. But there has been a second fire, which put the building again in flames.

 

 

 

THE NEW

Redesigned in 1988 the great library was planned to be rebuilt. They were starting the new project in 1995 and finished it by the year of 2002. With a total of 200 Million USD in construction costs.

 

The new version of the great Library was built in El Shatby in Alexandria. This new building is placed just a few feet beside the old spot of the library. This giant structure does not only serve as a storage for knowledge from all over the world but as a cultural center.

 

Space for over 20 Million books, currently only 200’000 copies are placed within the building. There are approximately 50’000 maps, 10’000 manuscripts, 50’000 rare books and also copies of the modern world.

 

As mentioned above, the whole structure of the modern library doesn’t only serve as an archive for books. The whole library consists out of four museums and offers permanent exhibitions.

 

 

 

THE APPEARANCE

The whole library looks cylindrical in a tribute to the Egyptian god Ra. From the outside, it looks like one side of the disc gets submerged into a pool of shallow water. The surface of the geometric figure is made of glass, so natural light will fill the room. As a result, its design is done to copy the hieroglyphics of the sun, usually displayed as a disc.

 

The Royal Library of Alexandria
(c) The Royal Library of Alexandria
Cary Bass
(c) Cary Bass

But my personal favorite is the different signs and languages engraved in the outer walls of the structure. It gives the whole library a unique touch. The stone used to build this engraved wall was granite from Aswan.

 

Kostas Kokkinos
(c) Kostas Kokkinos

And by night, finally, different lights in various colors play along on the façade of the construction. A quite unusual, yet a rather pleasing event for your eyes.

 

 



CREDITS

 

Architects: 
Snøhetta, Craig Dykers, Christoph Kappeller, Kjetil Thorsen

Photographers:
Kostas Kokkinos, CarstenW, Cary Bass, David Lisbona and The Royal Library of Alexandria

 

 

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Hi, I'm Nina!

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