Hanover Municipal Library
With its characteristic corner tower, Hanover’s Municipal Library is one of the oldest public libraries in Germany. Constructed between 1929 and 1931, the imposing building at the end of Georgstrasse was planned by the city’s building director Karl Elkart and the architect Hanns Bettex. With its striking brick façade, the library is a typical example of Brick Expressionism.
Only a small parcel of land in the southern part of town was available for the library, and for this reason Elkart and Bettex stacked the building’s functions on top of each other. They placed a fivestory book depot with ribbon windows over the reading rooms and administrative offices. With its ten stories, the tower was Europe’s first highrise library. A nod to the steel construction on the inside is given on the outer façade by vertical lesenes or pilaster strips.
The striking brick building was erected in the red modernist style. As a kind of counteraction to the Neues Bauen favored by the Bauhaus, architects like Bettex looked to a new ornamental formal vocabulary with raw angular elements. Bricks and hard-fired clinker, with their characteristic surfaces and colors ranging from brown to red and violet, were responsible for the lively impression made by the building. This style was not only especially popular in larger northern German cities and in the Ruhr District but also in the Netherlands.
The building, however, is also a reminder of the Third Reich’s ambivalence relating to architectural modernism: building director Elkart had been a member of the SS since 1933, and actively participated in the deportation of Hanover’s Jews. The library was used by the Gestapo as its Hanover headquarters from 1943 to 1945.
After the war it returned to use as a library, and the first extension was built in 1956. The American open access library system arranged according to subject was introduced at that time. It was enlarged again in 1974 and 2003. The building is now a listed historical landmark. [DB/HY]
Contact and opening hours
Hildesheimer Straße 12
- Weekday : — Uhr
- Saturday : — Uhr