Wednesday, 26th September: Two Magnificent Libraries
It was nearly before sunrise, when we met at the Schwanenplatz in Lucerne for the last excursion of the 40th ILAB Congress. Our host, VEBUKU President Alain Moirandat, did the utmost to keep us awake: He himself served coffee and “Kipfeli” during the early morning bus trip to the Monastery of Einsiedeln.
The Benedictine monastery is one of the most outstanding cultural treasures of Switzerland. Pilgrims who walk the Saint James Way, the route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, usually pass Einsiedeln. The monastery was founded in 934, but the building, as we see it today, was constructed and erected according to the plans of Caspar Moosbrugger. The real treasures are kept in the Baroque library: about 230,000 printed books, 1230 manuscripts and 1040 incunabula and early printed books including a medieval Latin poem which is the earliest mention of chess in Western literature.
The real highlight of the day was the visit of the Werner Oechslin Library. The collection of more than 50,000 books on the history of architecture is housed in a fascinating modern building designed by Mario Botta. The library holds primary sources on architectural theory and its allied fields in original editions from the 15th to the 21st centuries. Werner Oechslin led us through his library. On desks the most wonderful books were laid out, and we were allowed to touch and to read, while Oechslin held a remarkable speech about the true nature of a library. Everyone who listened felt that his enthusiasm and scholarship are incomparable.
The last evening of the 40th ILAB Congress always is a noteworthy and joyful event. This time the ILAB delegates came together in the Art Déco salons of Lucerne's Hotel Montana to celebrate their Farewell Dinner.