Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rethinking Architecture and Libraries

I am not a student of architecture but I sometimes find myself under the spell of beautiful buildings. Some of my favorites include: The Sculptured House (pictured) is also known as The Star Trek House, Clamshell House, The Jetson House or The Flying Saucer House and is known best as the house in Woody Allen’s The Sleeper; London’s “Gherkin” which houses offices in the financial district and also had a cameo in Allen’s Match Point; and the home of Charles and Ray Eames in California. These aren’t really surprising choices on my part but I appreciate each of them because they each ignored the convention of their eras and made something fundamentally different in some way.

I like all of these buildings because they each take a step back from convention and ask “why?” Why do buildings need to be rectangular? Why would we build a building for the now instead of trying to picture an appropriate building for the future? I think the architect for The Sculptured House, Charles Deaton said it well: “People aren’t angular. So why should they live in rectangles?”

After spending a long weekend in Seattle, I have to add Seattle’s Central Library to this list. According to Library Journal’s Brian Kenney, “What Seattle’s team of architects and librarians did was no less than to deconstruct the public library – laying out its various services and collections – the put it back together, seemingly unburdened by history.” It is projects like these that keep me excited about Austin’s own Central Library Project. You can, by the way, read the latest update on our website which includes some tidbits about how the Art in Public Places Program might play a role in the design of the new building. The update also provides the timeline for the project and information about other Capital Improvement Projects.

So if you’re interested, join me in daydreaming about the future of APL! Here are some titles to get you started.

On Building Libraries:
The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities
by Mattern, Shannon Christine

Planning for a New Generation of Public Library Buildings
by McCabe, Gerard B.

Countdown to a New Library: Managing the Building Project
by Woodward, Jeannette A.

Amazing Architecture and Design:
20th Century Design: The Definitive Illustrated Sourcebook
by Miller, Judith

Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture
by Goldberger, Paul

Modern Architecture: Representation and Reality
by Levine, Neil

The Films of Charles and Ray Eames
by Charles and Ray Eames

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