City of Books at Biblioteca Vasconcelos – Mexico City, Mexico - Atlas Obscura
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Mexico City, Mexico

City of Books at Biblioteca Vasconcelos

A jaw-dropping "megalibrary" contains the complete, perusable personal book collections of five of Mexico's greatest thinkers. 

The world is teeming with stunning libraries, but precious few manage to seamlessly cater to design, the people, and history in such an admirable manner as Mexico City’s Biblioteca Vasconcelos.

Located in the Buenavista area in the north of Mexico City, the massive Biblioteca Vasconcelos was designed by Alberto Kalach and completed in 2007 after three consecutive years of building. Situated among lush gardens and covering an area of over 38,000 square meters, the temple of knowledge is generally referred to as a “megalibrary” both for its size and the undeniable sense of import conveyed by the structure itself. Transparent walls, stories of intentionally slightly mismatched floors, and intricate networks of balconies and paths between replicating stacks let visitors literally get lost in the worlds contained within the books themselves.

In a uniquely Borgesian twist, the megalibrary Vasconcelos contains more than your average worlds-within-worlds of knowledge, as it literally contains five libraries within its whole. 

Through its “City of Books,” architects reenvisioned the concept of what a modern library could mean, by dedicating separate rooms within the Biblioteca Vasconcelos to five of Mexico’s greatest intellectuals: Ali Chumacero, Carlos Monsiváis, José Luis Martínez, Jaime García Terrés, and Antonio Castro Leal. No two libraries are alike, raging from semi-traditional in design; take, for instance, how the Monsiváis personal library’s 1807 walnut appearance stands in juxtaposition to the light wood-LED-skylight aesthetic of politician Castro Leal’s room. Each man’s collection was assigned a separate design team, making the effect of wandering each truly distinct despite being housed within the grand, protecting umbrella of Biblioteca Vasconcelo itself.

Exiting the rooms of the City of Books only to find oneself lost in the stacks of the megalibrary is a perfectly disorienting experience: pursued by ideas that shaped the past’s famous thinkers, the only way to get outside is by burrowing a path through a sleek, futuristic route lined with even more texts filled with potential guidance and answers… and, just like the non-textual world, in a megalibrary the options are endless. Choose wisely.

Know Before You Go

Take Metrobus linea 1 to Buenavista Station