Monday, October 27, 2008

Mies van der Rohe library

This past weekend I finally went to the library to check it out. It just so happens that my local library is the main branch of the DC library system and was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe! Completed in 1972, the library measures in at 400,000 sf and is the only public library ever designed by Mies. Steel & glass with some brick privacy walls at the first floor, this is a rare example of modernism in dc replacing the old Andrew Carnegie donated 1903 beaux arts building nearby (which unfortunately is vacant). The building is typical of Mies's style -with a grand exterior public entrycourt. The interior is delightfully open and filled with natural light.
In 2007 it was designated a historic landmark by the district and rightfully so. Unfortunately, while the upkeep on the facility is adequate it seems to have been bastardized. The grand spaces are littered with subpar clutter and tacky lighting belying Mies's modernistic vision: not a barcelona chair or table in site! It's still a great space though I was surprised to find!The library seen through 2 more typical traditional dc office buildings.
the open interiors (entry lobby)
The library is great -who needs blockbuster or amazon??!! I got 2 great books as well as numerous movies and cds. I'm reading 'Dior by Dior' - the autobiography of the designer first published in 1957 - it's incredible to read the backstory and his rather modest take on his abilities! Also checked out 'Antoine's alphabet, Watteau and his world' which is a historical fiction based on the life of the painter. Both definitely are worth a read!
Sorry for the poor picture quality, it was pouring rain and I was juggling an umbrella!


Alex said...

I'm not a huge fan of the architecture of this building. I HATE that if I want to take the stairs, I have to go through these back doors, up this creepy stairway that has to have a mirror so you can see who's coming (so no one will mug you, I'm assuming...)to get to the second floor.

I'm probably just spoiled by the gorgeous public library in Portland, OR, with a grand staircase completely open, surrounded on all sides by the rooms full of books. They have lunch hour concerts there, and there's a beauty and elegance to it. The DC library always smells like bums and once you get off the first floor the ceilings are opressively low.

Not to knock your Reis guy. I'm sure he's done a lot of other great things, but this is not my favorite by a long shot.

Libraries in general rock though!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Alex, I know this building is generally hated all over the city, but if it was treated right, I think it would have a more favorable response. I was merely talking about the architecture, not the use -also pointing out that we have a building in DC by one of the most famous architects of the 20th century (no exaggeration) - it's something to be proud about! We all know I have very classical tastes, but I think there is a lot to appreciate in a building like this as well.

Kwana said...

Thanks for the library tour. Don't you just love them? You made yours so interesting. I live at mine and it's not nearly as fine as yours.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

It's whats inside that matters, Kwana! People love to hate this library -and I'm always rooting for the under dog I think!

Toby Worthington said...

I see that you checked out Antoine's Alphabet. Just saw a short review of it in the New Yorker~it looks intriguing. Let's have your own review one day!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I'll let you know what I think, Toby!! It's surprisingly short so shouldn't take me very long :-)

Ivy Lane said...

I agree, If the building was treated right, it would be a favorite place to visit! I know I would. Wouldn't it be great to have a historic preservation group come in and raise money to re-vamp it to its original glory!! What??!!! No barcelona chairs!! Travesty! We have a few in the entry of the Cleveland Museum of Art.. I always make sure sit in one of them when I visit!!

Great Post!!!!!