The Latse Contemporary Tibetan Cultural Library is a center for modern Tibetan studies, rare book archives, and cultural gathering place for the Tibetan community.  Located in an adapted 1930s garage building, the elegant 8500 square foot library houses 12,000 volumes of Tibetan, Western, and Chinese books, and accommodates a variety of programs, including a Tibetan film series, lectures, and receptions for scholars and notable visitors. 

Using a contemporary vocabulary, the design fuses the vibrant materiality and abstract qualities of traditional Tibetan architecture with the programmatic complexity of an advanced research library, including a rare book room, audiovisual workroom, offices, and conference room.  The design captures the interplay of abstract light, rich materials and vivid color characteristic of indigenous Tibetan buildings. High louvered clerestories filter daylight into the centralized reception area, mimicking the filtered light prevalent in Tibetan monasteries. A wall of glass shelving holds historic Tibetan books wrapped in crimson and saffron-colored cloths. Slatted cherry wood walls, naturally finished steel doors, glass display cases, muted ceiling color and a dark floor combine to create an intense interior palette.

Marking a formal connection to the second floor reading room is a two story high banner embroidered with auspicious Tibetan signs.  The transition from the intimate reception area to the eighteen foot high, second floor reading room provides a dramatic contrast in space and light. A canted, soaring wall of glass on the north side of the room draws extraordinary natural light and the building’s dense urban context into the lofty space, which is connected to a south facing terrace. Latse Library provides an elegant and familiar environment for Tibetans, and conveys a nuanced appreciation of this extraordinary culture to non-Tibetans. 

Photography: ©Peter Aaron/Esto