Dating back to the 13th century, the structure was a Dominican church until Maastricht was invaded by Napoleon in 1794. Since then, it has been briefly used as a parish, then a warehouse, city archive, but it was also used for car shows, parking bicycles, flower exhibitions, and boxing matches and finally made over into a bookstore.
Led by architecture firm Merkx + Girod, the new installations are highlighted by a towering, three-story black steel book stack stretching up to the stone vaults. The highest shelves are reachable by lift or by a set of stairs within the sleek, well-made stack. At the back of the church customers and visitors can sit and admire the beautifully renovated 14th century ceiling frescoes, or chat over a cup of coffee in the café situated in the former choir. The design has won the Lensvelt de Architect Interior Prize, and in 2008 The Guardian called it the “best bookstore in the world”.
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights. In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states. Text by Steve Smith.