Architecture Monday

Check out this adaptive reuse to create a new library in Brooklyn!

The library is a sweet insertion into an old industrial building.  Cutaways and separations from the wall make it feel like an independent body nestled within the rugged frame.  Even better, these same cutaway elements expose the old brick walls and board-formed concrete ceiling, their textures highlighted in contrast to the smooth white surfaces of the insertion.

The curves of the new also play against the linear of the old, brought to a culmination by the curvaceous pavilion in the centre.  Here the wood exterior and bold colours of the equally curvaceous openings again enhance their presence by playing off the more subdued surroundings.

Very cool.  In a way it is very “simple”, and probably economical, but done with great panache to create a very compelling space to be in, a perfect library environment.  Nicely done.

The Adams Street Library by WORKac

Architecture Monday

Last week was such a gem… but Labrouste was not finished!  Nearly two decades later a second reading room was finished, this time for the National Library of France and it is equally stunning.  Moving from the double barrel vault of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, this reading room switches to a series of vaults, elegantly supported by a grove of his signature thin steel columns.

There’s a lot of lovely play going on here.  The columns and arches that define the perimeter of the room are massive and weighty, contrasting with those delicate columns and the filagree-enhanced arches that flare from each column to support the vaults.  But look closer – notice that the vaults don’t actually rest against those heavy outer bits.  Rather, there’s an independent column placed in front of each that heightens the soaring of the vaults overhead.  So much about the vaults is in contrast with the walls that support the stacks, yet they still marry together perfectly.

Such a beauty all over.  Great stuff.

La Salle Labrouste at the Bibliothèque Nationale by Henri Labrouste.

Architecture Monday

This is such a gem.  From 1851.  Kinda surprising, for it looks decidedly modern.  Indeed was in many ways, for it was one of the first buildings to use steel in such a monumental way, not only to create these massive open bays of space (and thus monumental structure) but also in such strikingly decorative ways (and thus monumental in decoration).

Beyond even that though, what must have been the most stunning for those visiting it in the 1850s  was the slenderness of the steel columns.  Used to the large and heavy stone or wood structure of contemporary buildings, the lightness and slenderness of these columns must have been wonderous to behold, mixed with perhaps no small amount of trepidation.  Could something that thin support so much roof?

This building was also somewhat of a first in that it was a public building that paid more attention to its inside than its outside.  That said, the outside is a classic creation with a decidedly unclassical twist:  the inside is reflected on the façade (ie, the function informed the form).  Check out the representation of the book stacks from within, complete with author’s names.

Definitively a momentous architectural work and still a wonder to this day.

Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève by Henri Labrouste.

Architecture Monday

An amazing set of photos by Xavier de Jauréguiberry of the amazing Phillips Exeter Academy Library.  This one is a classic, an amazing combination of geometry, proportions, materials, and light to create this remarkable spatial experience.  I also love how understated it is from the outside – striking in its own way for sure, with its intriguing with its heavy load-bearing brick construction and classical regularity that gives the impression of a stacked series of arcades (almost coliseum like?), which is further enhanced by the actual arcade at its base and that open-air bit at the top. But within this smooth exterior is the explosion of space at its centre, with circles meeting squares, with concrete meeting wood, and with light diffused into an ephemeral glow via a heavy structural frame.  And the ancillary spaces are done with equal care and precision.  Exquisite work.

The Phillips Exeter Academy Library by Louis Kahn.

Architecture Monday

Sound wave?  Tectonic shift?  Mountains?  However you read the shape it forms a strong identity for this library that edges up on one side to a wooded ravine.

While its big portico entrance welcomes you inside, only clerestory windows face the rest of town.  Along the ravine, however, the building is one continuous strip of window.  Beyond being something sculpturally nifty (which it is), the highly angular roof divides the space within into zones for reading, shelving, and enclosure (study booths, multipurpose rooms, offices) while also allowing light from above to make the building glow.

For a smallish branch library, the building is perfect, a straightforward and rectangular layout elevated to be distinct and inviting and cool.  Great stuff.

The Capilano Library, another fine work by Patkau architects!

Architecture Monday

What a beautiful chaotic mass!  There’s certainly no missing this building, jutting froth from the ground as it does, like the tectonic plates of the region that inspired it.  As a cultural centre, it announces itself most unabashedly.

It’s also got a touch of a European castle influence mixed in there, I think.  But that’s my projection from what I’m used to, for my eye also projects a little bit of climbing gym wall as well…

The wonderful chaos continues within.  Not that this is true chaos, of course – you can certainly tell the difference between a carefully designed explosion of expressiveness and rhythm versus true random splatter construction.  Here it’s all geometric exuberance writ large, creating shelves and nooks for all manners of books and objects and art, including multimedia!  All choreographed through circulation, charting a decidedly spatial journey.

Very cool and lots of fun.  A great fusion of a library, art museum, and natural history museum.

The Kodakawa Culture Museum by Kengo Kuma & Associates

Architecture Monday

Oh how I like this, especially as it’s exactly what it says on the tin:  Seashore Library.  It’s intricate, sculptural, and it delightfully responds to its unusual (for a library) location and makes full use of what such a location offers.

Inside and out the whole thing is a fancy interplay of solids and voids, with spaces both large and grand (such as the main reading room, with its ginormous window that frames the sand and surf beyond) or small and quiet (such as the meditation room).  Its rough board-formed concrete feels right at home on the beach like some giant rock, and that wall texture enhances the interplay of light and shadow.  And there is plenty of delightful light play throughout, shaping it both for functional reasons but also for dramatic effect.

Very very cool.  Love its boldness and its intricate assemblage of different forms, with equally intricate windows and play of light to create a wonderful array of spaces that manage to be evocative and contemplate at the same time.  Great stuff.

Seashore Library by Vector Architects

Architecture Monday

Though it’s a brutalist icon, and despite my love of libraries, I’ve never visited the inside of the Robarts Library on the campus of the University of Toronto.  But after seeing these photos of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book wing, I really gotta!

There’s a lot of goodness going on here, from the strong hexagonal patterns (reminds me a bit of the National Art Centre), the cathedral like nave of books, the intricate play of multiple levels, the clerestory window coupled with the ginormous hanging lantern, all enhanced by the rich tones of the wood paneling, the books, and the red carpet underpinning it all.  Killer work.

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library by Mathers and Haldenby Architects.

Architecture Monday

Maybe it’s something about spending so much time indoors that has me looking at libraries so much of late… whatever the reason, here’s another lovely one and one that I can check out the next time I can head back home to visit!

Wood.  Definitively lots of wood going on here.  Big, muscular, impressive wood, using engineered mass timber construction from responsibly managed lands (I am unsure if this is FSC certified, but I hope so).  Arranged like a series of curving splayed fingers, each topped with a green roof, it opens towards the public square with a giant portico.  It’s got great visual complexity, changing appearance from every angle, its various bits always in a dance with each other.

That beefy post and beam structure allows all below to be enclosed entirely with glass.  Inside the veritable forest of leaning trunks and all that light makes for a vibrant experience, almost cathedral-like.  It also allows for maximum flexibility; as its role evolves over time, the library can shuffle itself around to suit the needs of the community.

A very cool, engaging, and fun design.  Top shelf work.

The Scarborough Civic Centre Library by LGA.