IN THE AGE OF THE CLOUD and the search engine, the precarious status of the libraryits growing obsolescence as a brick-and-mortar repository of informationis already a cliché. Yet the library building seems to have lost none of its status as a cultural icon, with cities and institutions around the globe commissioning them at an impressive rate. Perhaps no architecture is more representative of this paradox than that of Snøhetta, the Norwegian firm that first rose to international prominence in 1989 after winning the high-profile competition to design Egypt’s Library of Alexandria. The building, completed in 2001, exhibits a canny mix of historical references and contemporary flourishes, combining a massive granite wall, which shelters the structure from prevailing desert winds and echoes the region’s ancient architecture, with a glass roof that fills book-lined reading
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