Virgilio Barco Public Library Architectural Photo Shoot

By Gillian Wong, Editorial Intern

On January 19, 2010, Mike Butler headed for Bogotá to do a photo shoot for the Virgilio Barco Public Library. The library and the government will use the photos to increase the education of the Colombian people, as well as publicize the institution itself. Butler shot the library’s interior for two nights, and the exterior and surrounding spaces for three nights.

The wide swirling interior expands the space into one reminiscent of fields, while the wood and white color scheme lends a comfortably quiet air to the design. In the dusk light, with a backdrop of fading jewel tones, it is a throwback to olden day villas, and reminiscent of sandstone courtyards. 


Although it contains little public information, the library stands as a symbol of Colombia’s educational goals. The library’s design makes it so that there is no need for artificial lighting during daytime. It is circumvented by lush, green parks, sports areas, and an apartment complex, with an area of 16,092 sq. m.

The Virgilio Barco Public Library was designed by the Colombian architect Rogelio Salmona (1929-October 3, 2007). He was known for his use of red brick in his architecture, and for using natural shapes like spirals, radial geometry, and curves. His style is prominent in the swooping lines of the library’s interior and the warm blends of the library walls.

Butler is noted for his avant-garde lighting and composition skills. His earlier work is primarily black and white, mainly concentrated with scenes from Bangkok.

Read more about Mike Butler, and see additional photos from this shoot, in his exclusive Q&A with Contract magazine.


  1. excellent work, very happy to see Colombia showcasing this amazing architectural jewel

  2. Very interesting project, the knowledge and use of intense lighting is absolutely impressive, astounding images. i would like to see more work like this