Located near downtown on the edge of Cuauhtémoc, the library towers over the adjacent Buenavista Station, one of the city’s busiest transit hubs where metro trains, the subway and buses intersect. It’s a mammoth three-block-long structure designed by Mexico City architects Alberto Kalach and Juan Palomar. From the outside, the hulking cement, steel and glass structure looks like a relic of mid-century Brutalism. Inside, it looks more like a scene from the information department in “Brazil,” the 1985 dystopian science-fiction film by Terry Gilliam.
After much political bickering over the $100 million budget, Biblioteca Vasconcelos opened in 2006 but closed soon after when inspectors discovered dozens of construction defects. It reopened after repairs in 2008 and is now open daily.
Occupying more than 400,000 square feet of indoor space, the nine-story library is illuminated almost entirely by natural light and kept cool or warm year-round by natural ventilation — a triumph of both engineering and conservation. Bookshelves appear to dangle from the ceiling, connected by a labyrinth of glass-floored catwalks and floating staircases. A series of lounges and reading nooks highlights the streamlined beauty of furniture designs from the 1960s. A reconstructed whale skeleton hangs above the central corridor. It is all utterly fascinating. I could wander the stacks for hours.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Eje 1 Nte. S/N, Buenavista, 06350 Ciudad de México