A city library designed to look like an open book

BPLwikiWhen you view it at street level, the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library looks like an imposing literary fortress, with a magnificent front door lined with Art Deco motifs of famous characters from great books.

But the architects behind it also gave the building a whimsical touch: they designed it to be shaped like an open book. The spine is at Grand Army Plaza, with one cover along Eastern Parkway and the other on Flatbush Avenue.


“In the nearly thirty years that had passed since breaking ground on the Central Library building in 1912, the modernist aesthetic, with its clean lines and austere façades, had taken hold. . .  .

“The new library building would be briskly modern, and the very shape of the building—with two wings stretching out like the covers of an open book—would reflect the purpose of the institution itself,” states the Brooklyn Public Library website.


The open-book design is probably best viewed from the air, but the second photo, taken during construction, offers a sense of it. Clever, right?

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5 Responses to “A city library designed to look like an open book”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    Symbolism is an added feature of great value no matter if it is a church shaped like a cross or a library like an open book.
    Several buildings have been designed to capture this essence in Israel – like the Shrine of the Book. However, the Kansas City, Mo. Public Library’s garage is a delightful for book lovers (and I urge you to look up a photo of it). The structure was created to mimic a ‘book shelf filled with giant editions!’
    It seems a shame not to see the ‘top of this NYC library. Do you think there might be a Google Earth image as I am sure many would enjoy a bird’s-eye-view of the clever idea.
    The corner of this library bldg. also reminds me of the Justice Dept Bldg. in Washington, D.C. – which ‘should be’ an ‘Open Book sort of place’ too!

  2. ledamato Says:

    I spent many a day here as a student. I loved the huge, impressive front doors that to me looked like a few shelved books with fancy spines. Here’s the google image if anyone is interested: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Grand+Army+Plaza,+Brooklyn,+NY/@40.6722785,-73.968365,253m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c25b0838b80ad9:0x945dd66f496224b7

  3. Deirdre Says:

    I have always loved the words on the right side of the door: “Here are enshrined the longing of great hearts and noble things that tower above the tide, the magic word the winged wonder starts, the garnered wisdom that has never died.”

    • Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

      What a glorious string-of-pearls! I had no knowledge of these words and can easily grasp why they should have been carved in stone (then and now) at such an important location as a library. Good for you, Deirdre — and thanks for taking the time to share this with the many who enjoy this site who live far, farrrrr away!

  4. Nikki Parsons Says:

    Oh how enlightening! I’m glad no one was around to hear me when I realized what you were saying about a place I’ve been to & past for many years. I can’t believe I never put my finger on it. On the ground, it’s just this massive BUILDING with a great imposing entrance. I realize this is an older post, but I’m new to the site & love it. Thanks for Sharing.
    A book!

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