The front of the building has been opened up (it was largely admin before and concrete bunker-like things blocked the view). Now there is great lighting and windows.
In what seems like an engineering feat to my (naive) eyes, the structure of the walls inside the building has been opened up so you have a feeling of long lines and beautiful corridors. Some how it feels like there are far fewer walls (and I wonder what happened to the load bearing ones?)
An example of one of these opened up spaces. (Red is all over.)
On the downside, following a trend in a lot of libraries, shelves are half size (fewer books, better security I suppose) and the “bookstore” style signs “Romance” “Urban Lit” etc. turn me off. (Although I’ll note that all the books still have call #’s on the spines at least.)
In the head scratching dept., there is going to be a TV studio on the first floor of the library. Wasn’t quite complete.
Front entrance, obligatory touchscreens, sort of shopping mall/casino feel.
Still some books around! A cart near the Foreign language stacks, with Rimbaud in French a good sign.
This is a try at a panorama shot around the atrium. This to me is a 100% improvement on the dreariness of the old building, in which the atrium, despite Johnson’s intentions, always seemed like the central hall of a prison yard. This is all the more amazing in that it seems like it was mostly accomplished with lighting and color (there were fewer structural changes on the upper level as far as I could tell.) This is now a much more inviting space to read, write, and browse.
Did I mention red? There is a lot of it. Some full height stacks remain, but the inevitable question of how much they weeded the collection comes up.
There are big spaces for a children’s library and this room for teens (blurry photo through glass door, sorry). The area at right I think is trying to evoke a booth in a diner. I assume teens today would mainly need plugs to charge their devices and good wi-fi. Banana splits, bobby socks, and a wise-cracking soda jerk not so much.
As a contrast, here is the main reading room, Bates Hall, in the old building. I try to be as open to library 2.0 and beyond as anybody. Still if you say, “reading room” to me and this is what is elicited. Even though what I mostly have done here over the years is write.
And in comparison with the entry way to the new building, here’s the basilica-like front hall from the McKim. (The requisite lions are out of the shot, but rest assured they are on either side of you as you walk down the stairs.)
On one of my recent work jaunts to Boston, I checked out the nearly complete renovation of the Johnson Building of the Boston Public Library. First opened in 1972, the building was named after its architect, Philip Johnson, and meant to complement the McKim building, build in 1895.
The older building has been beautifully restored in all of its Renaissance Palazzo knock-off glory, now a less dingy and far more comfortable place to be. (The crazy Sargent murals are still in place on the top floor.) But the essential dignity and grandeur remain.
The Johnson Building makeover was perhaps a harder case. The original building was a bit fortress-like in a 1970s style that isn’t much missed, with a giant empty atrium at the center (generally with painting visibly peeling off the ceiling window casements in my memory at least). That said, it worked well enough for me (and I’m a fairly intense library patron), had a good collection, but was not someplace I ever warmed to.
The redesign seems to be heading towards an answer to what a future-friendly library might be. (Something that lots of places are wrestling with, as I’ve posted about, and we are about to get a big dose of in DC with the renovation of MLK Library at Gallery Place.) I don’t know any more than they do about what the future of libraries will disclose, but a few impressions above courtesy of an evening visit earlier this month, with cell phone snaps. Some beautiful things…others a little headscratching…