Wilhelmpalais – Old Stuttgart Library building

Books are my closest friends, new and old. Past few years of my life have been spent in strange new places where I’ve often preferred the company of books to people. Technically books aren’t an alternative to human company but a good book to a fake and futile conversation is always preferable. And Europe seems to agree with me on that thought, or at least Germany does.

I have hardly seen a park, a tram, a bench, a station where people are not reading. Sometimes during heavy commuting hours almost everyone could be seen with their face buried in books. In fact the day before in the cinema hall, a guy was reading till the lights went off for the movie.

Obviously libraries and book stores are taken seriously here and are seriously huge. Not to mention every area of the city has its own small section of the library as well. But in Stuttgart one of my favorite places was the old Stadtbücherei on Charlottenplatz which was earlier Wilhelmspalais, home of the king Wilhelm II. After a lot of mayhem in the 1900s, since 1965 it had been the library. After being inside a building with colourful history, Stuttgart library has now moved into the all white new building at the Mailänderplatz.

The new building is white in such a way that the only colours you can see are of book jackets and the people browsing through them. It is a beautiful and imposing building almost reminding one of  a rubik’s cube. Though it does feel a bit too overwhelming at first after stepping inside. Was it because I loved the antiquity of the Wilhelmspalais? Or simply because the new library has too much space? May be both.

Architecturally, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful new libraries in the world. Korean architect Eun Young Yi has indeed left his mark as four top corners of the building include the word ‘library’ in German, English, Arabic and Korean. I don’t know how organic it is, but it definitely is stylish. I don’t have an expert understanding of architecture but I do understand what pleases my eyes. I like the space and peace that the new library gives me. But I miss the old one. Sometimes the new one reminds me of futuristic science fiction, but not in a bad way.

New Stuttgart Library

As of now the outer side of the old one is littered with empty bottles, but soon by 2016, it will be the new Stuttgart museum. Too much boring details, I know. As far as a library is concerned, the collection of books always matters more than the shape of the building and Stuttgart is more than satisfying in that area. Even the most clumsy libraries have surprised me with some of the best literary works in India.

And for the buildings, the old does have to make way for the new, no matter what the reasons are. Sometimes I wish old and new were not always the opposites of each other.