Bibliotheca Alexandrina Book
Anniversary Publication


Graphic & Digital Design


The book Bibliotheca Alexandrina tells the story behind this iconic project in Egypt, which kick-started Snøhetta's career in 1989. Through Snøhetta's own words and official voices involved in the project, the book retraces history to explore the importance and impact of architecture, art and design, and also of cultural exchange, mutual understanding, and collaboration. The book is designed by Snøhetta and is the first to be published through Snøhetta Books.

The book will be available for sale worldwide soon through, with preorders open now via emails to

Technical details

Books, Print & Publications

Snøhetta and Nigel Shafran

Texts by

Gunnar Stålsett, Odd Karsten Tveit, Jacques Tocatilian, Hilde Sandvik and Snøhetta

Photos of publication

Since 1989, when a then-unknown collective won the international architectural competition to design the library, Snøhetta has grown into a global architecture and design practice, while the Egyptian society has experienced deep change, among others, with the Arab Spring in 2011. After its opening in 2002, the library has influenced the lives of millions of visitors and citizens, both on a local and global scale.

To commemorate 20 years since the opening, the book explores how the library came to have the impact it has by looking back at the past, reflecting on the present, and peeking into the future. It also tells the unknown story behind one of Snøhetta's most defining projects through a wide selection of historical material ranging from unpublished sketches and pictures, a series of images of daily life at the library by photographer Nigel Shafran, as well as several interviews and essays.

This thoughtful examination of a landmark project is both inspired and inspiring. What better way to celebrate a library than by writing a book?


Part One

The book is made up of two parts. The first part includes sketches from Snøhetta’s architects and artists and previously unseen photographs from the design and building process, accompanied by the following texts: 

  • An essay about the historical and symbolic value of the library by Gunnar Stålsett, theologian, politician and formerly on the Library of Alexandria’s Board of Trustees.
  • An essay on the political and societal context from Odd Karsten Tveit, author and journalist covering the Middle East for Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK for three decades.
  • An article by the late Jacques Tocatilian, Director of the Office of Information Programs and Services at UNESCO.
  • An in-depth interview with Snøhetta’s founders Kjetil Trædal Thorsen and Craig Dykers by Norwegian journalist Hilde Sandvik.
  • An article about the art on the stone wall which was designed by artist Jorunn Sannes and sculptured by Kristian Blystad and local stonemasons. 

Part Two

Part two includes a series of photographs taken over two days in November 2017 by British photographer Nigel Shafran, showing the daily life of the library and how it is used by locals and employees – telling the story from the point of view of the people the library was designed for – as a contrast to the typical architectural photography.


The book is printed on two different paper stocks using the most advanced printing technology available. The thinner paper quality used in the first part of the book underlines the rough documentary feel of the content. For the second part the paper is perfect for high end photographic reproduction and the higher grammage secures good opacity. The matter is thread sewn with a Swiss bound open spine to make all spreads open flat. The gray colour of the cover hints to the facade of the library as the debossed text makes us think of the chiseled letters and symbols.


The book will be available for sale worldwide soon through, with preorders open now via emails to