It's not London's British Library, but the Danish Royal Library, dating from the 1600s, is the largest and most impressive in the Norse countries. The classical building with its high-ceilinged reading rooms is a grand and impressive place. The library owns original manuscripts by such Danish writers as H. C. Andersen and Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen). In 1998, sorely in need of more storage space for its many historically important records, the library was expanded with the addition of a gargantuan and sharply angular granite annex, the Black Diamond, which extended the venerable antique structure out and over the waterfront traffic artery, expanding it in a dazzling (and dizzying) study in architectural contrasts.
If you have the time, don't suffer from any kind of vertigo, and aren't stopped by a security guard, consider taking the elevator to the highest floor of the echoing interior spaces of the Black Diamond. Because of locked doors and security codes on that level, you'll probably remain within the hallways, and not within any of the "Sanctum sanctorums"; but even from the catwalks and walkways of the top floor, the sense of height, the interplay of sunlight and shadows, and the perspectives from the topmost floor can be both terrifying and awe-inspiring. An irony? In keeping with the Black Diamond's role as a repository for books, its floors, as designated by the elevators inside, are labeled as Levels A, B, and C rather than the more conventional designations as 1, 2, and 3. Likened to Sydney's Opera House for its evocative and enigmatic appearance, the Black Diamond's progressive but boxy-looking design adds to the monumentality of the waterfront promenade -- by the harbor between the bridges Langebro and Knippelsbro. A myriad of dazzling, reflective slabs of black granite from Zimbabwe cover the facade, and its exterior walls slant sharply at disconcerting angles. Along with space for 200,000 books, the Black Diamond features a bookshop, an upscale restaurant (Søren K), six reading rooms, a courtyard for exhibitions, and a 600-seat concert hall. After viewing the interiors of both the old and new sections of the library, you can wander through its formal gardens, past the fishpond and statue of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.
- © Frommer's 2013
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