The most striking and unusual sight in downtown Kansas City, Missouri is the giant bookshelf façade that covers the front of the public library's parking garage. Apparently, this is the World's Biggest Bookshelf. It is made up of 22 different book titles, ranging from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 to Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. As you walk by the giant titles, you can't help but wonder how this was conceived and who decided to go for it. Shrubs and trees obscure many of the titles, so the best time to view the giant bookshelf is in the winter months.
The garage was built around 2004 to accommodate the growing number of vehicles in the downtown area. The Kansas City community was asked to provide ways to beautify the front of the garage and the idea of a giant bookshelf was born. The general public submitted their favorite book titles, then the final selections were made by The Kansas City Public Library Board of Trustees.
I visited the giant bookshelf today, so take a look at the video below to get an idea of the scale. As you will see in the video, the back sides of the book spines are visible from inside the parking garage. I'm not sure why they chose to make part of the backsides unattached to the cement structure. I think those exposed areas have become vulnerable to caving in. Also, in the video I went to the very top of the book spines to see how thick they are:
Each of the books is 25 feet tall and 9 feet wide and are made of signboard mylar. The bookshelf runs along the south wall of the library's parking garage on 10th Street between Wyandotte Street and Baltimore Avenue. There are also some other cool art tapestries on both sides of the garage which are hanging down from the very top.
From a distance, the book spines appear to be one solid form, but as you move closer to them, you begin to see that they are made up of many pieces which are held together with bolts. The weather has definitely made its mark on the book spines as you can see the outlines of the many pieces and parts of the mylar that are frayed at the edges. From the video you can see one of the books even has a rectangular piece that has completely caved inwards.
If you happen to be in Kansas City any time soon, make sure you visit the giant bookshelf in downtown. It's definitely worth a visit. If nothing else, the spines make the perfect backdrop for the ubiquitous and dreaded selfie.
Written by Leah Stephens