National Library of Kosovo
A futuristic, brutalist masterpiece that is also strangely prison-like.
Pristina’s public library is full of incongruities.
The most obviously unusual element is the general appearance of this massive Kosovar structure. While so many libraries work to bring people inside, Pristina’s public library resembles a giant prison, hardly an appealing image to promote literacy.
This building was completed in 1986. Covered in a lattice of fence-like metal, the building’s windows are obstructed, giving views from within the library a captive essence. Designed in the brutalist style, in many ways the library seems to look toward the future. Yet the white domes that top the many sections of the library were built to resemble men’s hats of the national outfit, putting the library in the middle of a conflict between tradition and modernity.
Despite many people calling the building one of the ugliest in the nation, it is certainly a unique architectural effort, and captures the spirit of a country recently ravaged by war, and working to move forward and rebuild.
Inside, there are more than 2 million library items, including rare materials such as books, newspapers, manuscripts, maps and photographs. There are two reading rooms, an amphitheater and a meeting hall. It has been used by Croatian and Bosnian refugees as living quarters and by the Serbian Army as a command center, during which many historical books were destroyed. The library is open to visitors, but guests should bring identification, like a passport.
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