Whoops, lull.

Things have been busy, what can I say.  Every academic knows how the middle-to-end of term starts to compress, accordian-like, until by the last week (which happens to be this one) there’s hardly room to breathe, let alone think about the wider world.

Still, I came across this piece via the great ArchNewsNow newsletter (architectural news of note delivered to your inbox daily, for free), and wanted to share it.

New Libraries Revitalize Cities

A mixed-use, multimedia complex that is meant to foster social interaction and creative ferment as much as reading and research, the library of the future is also intended as an engine of city-center rejuvenation.

The article discusses libraries like the Rem Koolhaus-designed Seattle Public Library, which is grandiose and visionary, and which lives in an already-thriving downtown center.  It also looks ahead to how libraries can be designed as additions to failing neighborhoods, not just as book warehouses but as places where you can “use a research database and take a swim, say, or to find a good read and buy a pair of socks.”  Basically, libraries can be meaningfully integrated with other public / commercial centers, from the ground up.

What might that look like?  Here’s an architects’ drawing of a library planned for Aarhus, Denmark:

Architects' rendering of library planned for Aarhus, Denmark

I like the kayak.

This also makes me think of the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch, one of the first places I ever plied my trade, in its mammoth Coliseum-style Moshe Safdie Statement Building, which also included small businesses in the adjoining rental spaces.  If you worked at the library you could go downstairs, through the atrium, and get a slice of pizza or some noodles at the little restaurants there, or buy a magazine at the newsstand.  If you could make your way through the traditional cultural dance performances happening in between.

Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch

Obviously there’s a lot that goes into making a major New Building happen, and still more into making it a truly functional and integrated part of a working or non-working neighborhood.  But I like knowing that architects and planners are thinking about libraries as hubs, not just for borrowing books but for anchoring neighborhoods.  I think that’s pretty cool.

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