Serralves Library, Porto – an oasis of calm

Written by Lucy Ahmed

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Located within beautiful grounds on the outskirts of Porto, Serralves Library offers an oasis of calm within the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Prior to the creation of the library, in 1999, the bibliographic collection of the Fundação de Serralves ran alongside a Documentation and Research Centre (CID) which was established in 1987.  Its aim was to undertake research to support the activities of Serralves Villa, a masterpiece in art deco architecture. This included exhibitions, tours and courses in Art History.

Once Serralves Library was created in 1999 there was a change in focus.  The library now offers a public service and has aimed to expand its collections from 9k – 35k titles.  These focus mainly on art, architecture and landscape.

The main reading room is open from Monday to Saturday (10am – 6pm) and the Mezzanine floor is also open on Sundays.

All of the library books are reference only.  The collections are aimed at researchers, artists and art critics as well as architects and students.  As a member of the public you can register as a Reader via the library’s website.  In addition there is a comprehensive online catalogue which provides detail about the collections available.  There is free Wi-Fi as well as other chargeable services including reproduction and scanning (with copyright and author’s rights restrictions).  There is a reference service and training available for online resources.  You are able to reserve documents in advance and the library provides an interlibrary loan service.  For more information about library services you can contact

The key impression when you enter the library is that it’s a wonderful use of space. It is a modern building with clean lines. You enter the library on an upper mezzanine floor and are greeted by giant coloured lightbulbs which hang at different lengths into the main library space below. Due to the calculated disorder of this lighting, there are reflections of light from a large window looking out onto the layers of greenery outside.

The library contains an array of Collections including the ‘Melo and Castro Collection’ which was acquired in 2002. This is a radical collection exploring visual and experimental poetry. The ‘Raymond Hains Collection’ explores the work of the French artist and includes a variety of work in a range of formats.   There are also site-specific collections including the ‘Carlos Alberto Cabral Collection’ which documents the construction of Serralves Villa and Park.

The Park outside is home to a fantastic sculpture park, including works from Anish Kapoor.  The layered landscaping ranges from fragrant Eucalyptus trees which tower over more manicured rose gardens.  The spaciousness of the library, museum and the park outside give a real sense of tranquillity.  Serralves Villa is also worth a visit.  Harking back to a bygone era, the geometric style is a classic example of art deco architecture which expands out to symmetrical gardens and water features.

For more information about Serralves and to visit the library, you can visit the website here:


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