|Cover for Fahrenheit 451|
After a rather very frustrating hour or so trying to deal with technical glitches, yours truly can finally sit, relax, and write. Today we look at a tale of three libraries: Seattle, Stuttgart, Germany, and San Diego. Our guide to this tale of three cities who believe that "new of the libraries' death is greatly exaggerated" is Klaus Philipsen and his July post on his blog http://archplanbaltimore.blogspot.com, "Three Libraries-Seattle, Stuttgart, and San Diego." The literary doomsayers regularly predict that as libraries grow, the physical book will go the way of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Mr. Philipsen ponders, "Will they, like the Dinosaurs, collapse under their enormous weight and go extinct due to their insatiable feeding needs or are these big bold libraries an example of adaptation, proof that the book itself may not be dead and the physical place for knowledge is thriving?" Citing the American Library Association "Libraries Transforming Communities" initiative goals:
LTC will help libraries become more reflective of and connected to their communities and achieve a domino effect of positive results, including stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations, and greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health and well-being. ALA also hopes to shift public discourse away from past themes about libraries in crisis and talk of libraries as agents of positive community change. (http://www.ala.org/transforminglibraries/libraries-transforming-communities)
|Richard J. Riordan Central Branch|
Los Angeles, California
*Klaus Philipsen has omitted discussions of resilience and energy from his review because he could gain access to the necessary information. Suffice to say the Seattle and San Diego Libraries are LEED rated silver, based on German energy codes, the same is true of the Stuttgart Library.
|Seattle Central Library|
Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Radus OMA
The reinvented library OMA in Seattle
The "oldest" the trio of featured libraries is the 412, 250 square foot Seattle Library, opened in 2004 at a cost of $169.2 million. It is located in downtown Seattle, occupying an entire city block. The library was designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Radus of OMA and trumpeted globally as a "trailblazer for innovation in library design." No doubt, this is a very one-of-a-kind place. The latte Herbert Muschamp, former architecture critic for the New York Times, wrote, "In more than 30 years of writing about architecture, this is the most exciting new building it has been my honor to review." (http://www.nytimes.com/...architecture-the-library-that-puts-on-fishnets-and-hits...) Wow, such high praise from the New York Times. Mr. Muschamps describes his first impression as "...pure bling bling: an urban montage of starburst images without a special lens." (Ibid) He further calls it
...a big rock candy mountain of a building, twinkling in the middle of office buildings...The library's exterior is an angular composition of folded planes. Walls are of glass, supported by a diagonal grid of light blue metal that covers almost the entire surface. At first glance, the irregular angles, folds and shapes seem arbitrary. The building's structure is hard to discern, and the overall grid pattern looks like a pensive exaggeration of the abstract geometries used by mid-20th-century architects for decorative relief. (Ibid)
|Interior of Seattle Central Library|
Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Radus OMA
It is pointless, with this project, to separate formal and social organization. How people use a space is no less a matter of form than the most abstract visual composition. As such, a building program can be subject to aesthetic articulation. (Ibid)
Klaus Philipsen quotes Rem Koolhaas's explanation to the Seattle Times regarding the standard book subject divisions: "humanities," "art," and so forth as "sad," adding:
...the point was to create a kind of single, undivided sequence, because we felt that one of the points of a library was that there are accidents and you find yourself in areas where you didn't expect to be and where you kind of look at books that are necessarily the the kind o books that you're aiming for.
Been there, done that.
|Seattle Central Library Book Spiral|
While flexibility in the library is conventionally translated into the creation of the generic floors without a segregation of programs, the Seattle Central Library cultivates a far more refined approach by organizing itself into spatial programs, each dedicated to, and equipped for, specific duties. Tailored flexibility remains possible within each compartment without the threat of one section hindering the others. This was achieved by the "combing" and consolidation of the library's programs and media, thereafter identifying programmatic clusters-five of stability, and four of instability. Each platform is thus created as one cluster that is architecturally defined and equipped for maximum, dedicated performance. Because each platform is designed for a unique purpose, their size, flexibility, circulation, palette, structure, and MEP vary. The spaces in between the platforms function as trading floor where librarians inform and stimulate and where the interface between the different platforms is organized i.e. spaces for work, interaction, and play. (http://www.oma.eu/projects/2004/seattle-central-library)
The more I look at this schematic drawing, the more I think Le Corbusier's sketch for the domino principle, just a thought. Mr. Philipsen reminds us that this library is not just about spatial organization, it is also about public access. Mr. Koolhaas paid particular attention to the interior public spaces. Mr. Philipsen cites the example of the main entrance which leads to the visitor into the lobby, described by Herbert Muschamp as, "Compared to the Central Library's soaring atrium lobby, the entrance pyramid at the Louvre looks like a gadget from the Sharper Image catalog." (http://www.nytimes.com/...architecture-the-library-that-puts-on-fishnets-and-hits...) I hope the French did not read that comment. Mr. Philipsen speculates, "One would imagine that the Seattle library system would have used the success of this building as the bases for its 2011 strategic plan which focuses on passion, access, community empowerment and partnerships; but that plan hardly mentions architecture as a tool to achieve these goals." In turn OMA has demonstrated that a library can be just about service.
|Stuttgart Book Tower|
At first glance, this rather imposing edifice does not look the friendly neighborhood library. The Stuttgart Library was designed by South Korean architect Eun Young Yi at a cost of $107 million for 345,000 square feet. The library design development is born out of "the intellectual archetype of form inwards" instead of a program. The Library references (slight pun intended) ancient models such as The Pantheon and supposedly an eighteenth century sketch by Étienne-Louis Boullée for his Newton Centotaph (or his design for a Parisian library, Klaus Philipsen is uncertain). Mr. Philipsen refers to this project as "an exercise in rigor and one might say rigidity" as Mr. Yi attempts translate architectural essence (Wesentlichkeit in German) from history into modernity.
|Interior atrium Stuttgart Book Tower|
|The Stuttgart "book prison"|
Eun Young Yi's Borg-like cube occupies space in a new quarter of Stuttgart, still being built, rising out of a former train yard of the nearby central station. Despite the fact that the "Europa quarter" is not complete, at least to date, Mr. Philipsen dismisses it as "sadly sterile and suburban, so there is little hope that the surroundings will mitigate the rigor of Yi's book austerity cube any time soon." Meanwhile the nighttime appearance of the cube, aglow in purple, suggests something someone would want see during the day.
|San Diego Central Library|
San Diego, California
The last stop on our bibliophile tour is the just completed San Diego Central Library, a completely different place than our previous examples. The Central Library is the product of a single citizen architect, Rob Wellington Quigley, FAIA, who dedicated more than ten years of his life to making this library a reality in his hometown. Costing $184.9 million and measuring 492, 495 square feet (75,000 of it used by a public high school), in Mr. Philipsen's assessment, it ranks up there with the Seattle Central Library. However, unlike OMA which wanted to reinvent the library, Mr. Quigley wanted to create an object of civic pride and was extra careful to design what the people wanted. No "book prisons" for San Diego. According to one local paper,
to a community center, it's more like a village. There's an outdoor square bordered by a cafe and a 350-seat auditorium with concert hall-worthy acoustics. Patrons are encouraged to check out a small office for intense studying-or lease the upstairs terrace for a rally (500 adults can stand here) or wedding receptions (there's room for 200 diners). Poke around and you'll find a sculpture garden, an art gallery, a shop with museum-quality items. Admire the views from the ninth floor and don't forget to inspect the dome which is really eight overlapping metallic sails. The architect, Rob Wellington Quigley want it to look unfinished.
"Always in a state of becoming," Hubbard said, "just as we are human beings."
|Interior of San Diego Central Library|
|Atrium of LAPL Central Branch addition|
Los Angeles, California
The title of this section suggests that books and knowledge are worthy of religious-like worship. We live in an era where knowledge attainment is instantaneous, rendering books obsolete. Why read a book when it is available online? Our library tour demonstrated that the physical book form is not dead and the library, as a building typology, a place of knowledge and exchange for everyone, is still valid. What each example has shown us is that there is more than one way to showcase books. They also present case studies in the difference between the design competition process and community inclusion from the beginning. Well articulated in Seattle and consistent in Stuttgart, community inclusion from the beginning in San Diego resulted in a building not well loved by the architectural purist but is a delight to its users.
Whether it is the library that put on its "fishnet stockings and hit the disco" in Seattle, the Borg cube monolith in Stuttgart, or the joyful noise in San Diego, each are
|Original atrium of LAPL Central Branch|